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Royal Navy-led Sentinel mission keeps goods and fuel flowing through the autumn

A USCG patrol boat leads HMS Montrose during a joint patrol.jpg
24 November 2021
More than 200 ships a month – carrying oil, gas, cars, food and consumer goods – have sailed safely through Middle East hotspots this autumn thanks to a Royal Navy-led task force.

Operation Sentinel – directed by an international staff from Bahrain under Commodore Gordon Ruddock – draws on the military assets and expertise of eight nations to deter state-sponsored threats to the security of seafarers passing through Middle East waters – especially the ‘choke points’ of the Strait of Hormuz (gateway to the Gulf itself) and the Bab-al-Mandeb at the foot of the Red Sea.

Should either become blocked or unsafe for merchant shipping the impact on the UK alone – which relies on regular supplies of liquid natural gas from the Gulf for example – would be severe.

The task group uses a combination of small and major warships from the participating navies ­– including the Royal Navy’s Bahrain-based frigate HMS Montrose – to monitor daily goings-on and watch over shipping, particularly merchantmen flying the flags of the eight nation’s committed to Operation Sentinel’s parent body, the International Maritime Security Construct: UK, US, Albania, Bahrain, Estonia, Lithuania, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

In addition, maritime patrol aircraft and task force helicopters have flown more than 3,300 hour of patrols – more than 19 weeks in the air – keeping a close eye on activity below.

This coalition was built on a strong foundation of co-operation and each member of IMSC will remain vigilant.

Commodore Don Mackinnon

During Commodore Ruddock’s four months at the helm of the task force, 834 IMSC-flagged vessels passed through these waters, all without a single incidence of malign activity.

He’s now handed over to the latest Royal Navy officer to take charge of Sentinel since its inception in November 2019, Commodore Don Mackinnon, who says despite the ongoing successes, the mission continues unabated.

“Now, more than ever, it is vital we develop new and innovative ways to deliver the mission of deterrence and reassurance,” he added. “This coalition was built on a strong foundation of co-operation and each member of IMSC will remain vigilant.”

Cdre Mackinnon told the Sentinel staff he relished the coming challenge.

“Whether afloat or ashore, I have always been incredibly fortunate to find myself working alongside the very best people our respective nations have to offer,” he said.

“Be they UK nationals or Coalition partners; regulars or reservists; military or civilian, I have always found people to be the commander’s single most important capability, and ultimately it is good people that deliver good operational outcomes.”

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