HMS Montrose, a Coalition Task Force (CTF) SENTINEL warship, has been patrolling the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) in the Gulf of Aden. The Gulf of Aden connects to the Red Sea via the Bab el-Mandeb Strait; one the of the world’s most important maritime choke points, which measures just 18 miles wide at its narrowest point. Providing an outlet to the west for oil and gas, it is estimated that up to six million barrels of oil and nearly 3.5 billion cubic feet of liquid natural gas pass through these waters each day. CTF SENTINEL is the British-led operational arm of the multi-national, IMSC which deploys ships and aircraft throughout the region as part of an international effort to ensure freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce in international waters.
“Our ships routinely patrol these waters in order to provide reassurance to merchant vessels, maintain freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce,” said Royal Navy Commodore Rob Bellfield, CTF Sentinel commander. “The Gulf of Aden is one of the most strategically important waterways in the Middle East region and it is vitally important that seafarers feel safe operating in the area. The IRTC was established in 2009 to concentrate merchant vessels transiting in a defined area. Based on the concept of safety in numbers, the IRTC allows warships to easily patrol the area providing reassurance to merchant shipping. The attempted attack on the Motor Tanker Gladiolus on March 20, and attack on the Motor Tanker Stolt Apal on May 20 demonstrate the importance of international organizations such as the International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC).”
The current HMS Montrose is the eighth of the sixteen-ship Type 23 or Duke class of frigates, of the Royal Navy, named after the Duke of Montrose. She was laid down in November 1989 by Yarrow Shipbuilders on the Clyde, and was launched on 31 July 1992 by Edith Rifkind (later Lady Rifkind), wife of (later Sir) Malcolm Rifkind, Secretary of State for Defence. She commissioned into service in June 1994. Having once been the flagship of the 6th Frigate Squadron, Montrose became part of the Devonport Flotilla, based in Devonport Dockyard in Plymouth, and in 2023 is to move base port to HMNB Portsmouth. In 2018, it was announced that Montrose would become the first Royal Navy frigate to be forward-deployed to the UK Naval Support Facility in Bahrain.