Gulf Maritime forces seek sailors' help to fight terror
Manama, June 24, 2008
Fishermen and leisure sailors are being asked to help combat terrorism in the Gulf's waters. All shipping, from tiny craft to giant merchant vessels, is being urged to watch out for suspicious activity at sea.
Coalition forces patrolling the Gulf say all sea users can play a key role in gathering intelligence about the movement of terrorists.
A renewed drive has been launched to encourage thousands of vessels of all kinds to pass on information about suspicious activity, British Royal Navy Commodore Peter Hudson told the Gulf Daily News on Monday.
British forces took control of Combined Task Force 152, for the first time earlier this month.
The force, established in 2004, is coalition of 20 countries that patrols the Central and Southern Arabian Gulf as part of maritime security operations.
Navy officials took control of the taskforce from the Royal Bahrain Navy and will be in charge for around four months.
'Our role is to ensure that the waters of the Gulf are a safe area to trade for the industries that use it like the fishing community, petrochemicals, merchant marines, cargo vessels and the leisure industry,' said Commodore Hudson.
'This is an area of international economic importance and a lot of traders use it, whether from India, Pakistan or east Africa or tankers who trade with the US.
'We all want to see a safe and stable trading environment and we can do that by communicating and exchanging information.'
Commodore Hudson stressed that coalition forces do not rely solely on information from vessels operating in the Gulf to thwart terrorist activity, but said the observations and information they may have could prove useful.
'This is entirely voluntary but it could help us build up a picture of events and if we understand what is going on around the region,' he told the GDN.
Commodore Hudson referred to the suicide bombing attack against the USS Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden in 2000, which killed 17 sailors, as proof of the potential danger.
'A determined terrorist can create a real incident in the Gulf and the collective will (of the coalition) makes that sort of activity extremely difficult,' he said.
Commodore Hudson does not believe ships will be unwilling to pass on information about suspicious activity, saying the British Royal Navy has built up strong links in the Gulf.
'We have a good healthy relationship with the maritime community, particularly within the fishing industry and we want to develop that,' added Commodore Hudson.
Suspicious behaviour or unusual activity can be reported to the Coalition Maritime Forces (CMF) vessels on Channel 16 or via the CMF hotline on 17812951.-TradeArabia News Service