The International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC) headquarters held a change of command ceremony between two British officers at Naval Support Activity, Bahrain April 30.
The transfer of responsibility between the outgoing IMSC Commander, Commodore James Parkin and Commodore Rob Bellfield, both of the Royal Navy, took place online without meeting face to face, as part of the COVID-19 mitigation effort.
“This change of command – taking place virtually due to social-distancing measures – is the most unique ceremony in which I have participated,” said Parkin.
Parkin took command of the multinational IMSC coalition on Jan. 30, 2020, when the U.S. Navy turned over responsibility to the United Kingdom, and this ceremony represents the continuation of UK leadership.
“Our coalition has grown since I took command,” said Parkin. “I expect that it will continue to grow. With increased membership comes greater influence over those who fail to respect the rule of international law, and over those who might want to interfere with the free flow of global trade.”
Since being established in 2019, IMSC headquarters staff, assigned ships, and maritime patrol aircraft have all been working around the clock to ensure maritime security and to deter malign activity in the Middle East.
“I have had the privilege to command a capable and diverse group of sailors, marines and airmen from many nations, who I not only have come to trust, but have also relied upon for the last three months,” said Parkin. “This team rose to this challenge of building the IMSC to what it is today. I have no doubt they will continue to hone this mission now that it is in the capable hands of my good friend Rob.”
Bellfield, a surface warfare officer of more than 30 years’ experience, has commanded warships on operations around the world, was the executive officer of aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, the Deputy on the UKMCC staff in Bahrain from August 2013 to May 2014 and most recently commanded the Royal Navy’s Amphib and Frigate force in the Devonport Flotilla from August 2017 to April 2020. On arrival in the Middle East he remained in self-isolation for 14 days in line with the Kingdom of Bahrain’s COVID-14 mitigation rules.
“Providing reassurance to the merchant shipping community is paramount – especially during this unprecedented time of global pandemic,” said Bellfield after the ceremony. “Having worked in Bahrain from 2013 to 2014, it is a privilege and honour to return to take command of the IMSC and lead Task Force Sentinel. Our mission remains focused on supporting global trade; it is more important than ever to shine a light on illegal actions and uphold the Rule of Law on the High Seas.”
Eight nations have joined IMSC since it formed in November 2019: Albania, Australia, Bahrain, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Lithuania, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the United States of America.
The multi-national, British-led IMSC deploys ships and aircraft throughout the Middle East region as part of the international surveillance and detection effort enabling nations to work cooperatively to promote the free flow of commerce, deter threats to shipping, and enhance maritime domain awareness and surveillance in the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, the Bab el- Mandeb Strait and the Gulf of Oman.