HMAS Newcastle joins counter piracy taskforce

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Sarah West (author and photographer)

Topic(s): Operation SLIPPER, HMAS Newcastle (F06)

HMAS Newcastle's boarding party prepares to conduct a boarding while conducting counter terrorism operations in the Red Sea. (photo: LEUT Sarah West)
HMAS Newcastle's boarding party prepares to conduct a boarding while conducting counter terrorism operations in the Red Sea.

The Royal Australian Navy ship HMAS Newcastle has recently completed two successful weeks of counter terrorism operations in the Red Sea with the multi-national Combined Task Force 150 (CTF 150).

CTF 150 is a coalition force with a principal mission to deter, disrupt and defeat attempts by international terrorist organisations to use the maritime environment as a venue for attack or as a means to transport personnel, weapons and other materials.

Over a fortnight of operations with CTF150, Newcastle’s crew executed 81 boarding actions while the crew of the S-70B-2 Seahawk Helicopter conducted 32 surface search sorties, to gather ‘patterns of life’ intelligence and detect and deter illegal activity in the area.

Newcastle’s Operations Officer, Lieutenant Robbie Baker said the boarding operations also focused on regional engagement.

“These boardings helped us to strengthen our relationships with the coalition units of CTF 150 and with the wider community, including people from countries such as Yemen and Eritrea.

“During these engagements we were able to gain the local perspective on illegal activity being conducted in the area, which allowed us to focus our efforts on the higher risk areas,” Lieutenant Baker said.

Coalition navies have been conducting regular maritime security patrols in the Red Sea and the Bab-el-Mandeb strait for more than thirteen years. Lieutenant Baker said there had been an obvious decline in illegal activity as a result.

“Thanks to the extensive counter piracy efforts from all the partnering nations there has been a marked decrease in the number of piracy attacks in this area. That has allowed us to focus our attention on counter terrorism efforts, which is making it much harder for smugglers to operate here,” he said.

Newcastle has now joined Combined Task Force 151 (CTF 151) to conduct counter piracy operations in the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC). Lieutenant Baker said the IRTC was a high risk area for pirate attacks.

“A large percentage of the world’s shipping passes through the IRTC, so pirates have a lot of targets to choose from. The corridor only covers a small area, so pirates are able to get to merchant vessels in a short amount of time, without having to go too far out to sea.

“Our presence helps to deter these pirates from disrupting the ships that use the corridor, so that they can get through the tight passage and arrive at their destination safely,” he said.

CTF 151 is a multi-national task force which exists to deter and disrupt piracy, protecting maritime vessels of all nationalities and securing freedom of navigation for the benefit of all. It is one of three task forces which operate under the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) partnership.

Newcastle is in the MEAO as part of Operation SLIPPER - the Australian Defence Force (ADF) contribution to the international campaign against terrorism, counter smuggling and counter piracy in the Gulf of Aden, and enhancing regional maritime security and engagement. Her current six-month deployment is the 55th rotation of an Australian warship to the MEAO since 1990.

Imagery is available on the Royal Australian Navy Media Library at http://images.navy.gov.au/S20130789.