Canada is one of 29 nations that contribute naval assets to Combined Maritime Forces, the naval coalition that promotes security and stability in the international waters of the Middle East. This area comprises some of the world’s most important shipping lanes.

Combined Maritime Forces was formed in February, 2002 as the coalition headquarters responsible for coordinating and leading naval participation in the international campaign against terrorism. Over the years, its mandate expanded to include counter-piracy operations as part of international efforts to ensure security in the maritime environment of the greater Middle East.

Combined Maritime Forces has its headquarters in Bahrain. It is commanded by the U.S. Navy Vice-Admiral, who is also the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central (NAVCENT) and the United States Fifth Fleet, both also headquartered in Bahrain. Its deputy commander is a British Commodore from the Royal Navy. Canadian Armed Forces staff and liaison officers serve at Combined Maritime Forces Headquarters under Operation FOUNDATION.

Combined Task Force 150

Combined Maritime Forces comprises three operational flotillas, called Combined Task Forces:

  • CTF-150, responsible for maritime security and counter-terrorism;
  • CTF-151, responsible for counter-piracy; and
  • CTF-152, responsible for security and cooperation in the Persian Gulf.

Canada has deployed frigates to operate with CTF-150 since the beginning of Operation ALTAIR in 2004, and provided the Task Force Commander and flagship in 2008, also under Operation ALTAIR. (source: National Defence and CAF website)

Let’s take a closer look at Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150), who is under the Combined Maritime Forces command, since the Royal Canadian Navy is engaged in it. Currently, seven countries are contributing to CTF-150 providing 15 ships. The role of CTF-150 is to monitor, inspect, board and stop suspect shipping to pursue the GWOT and in the Horn of Africa region. The current contributing countries are Canada, Denmark, France, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.

It is not before January 4 that the Task Force began to perform Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) missions, boarding dhows (fishing boats) and oil tankers passing near the Somali coast.

Before that, CTF-150 was doing extensive Anti-piracy operations in Somalia. In August, 2008, CTF-150 established the Maritime Security Patrol Area through a narrow corridor within the Gulf of Aden, aimed at deterring attack and hijacking of ships seeking safe passage through the zone.