The U.K. Royal Navy is now leading the international effort to protect shipping through the Strait of Hormuz, the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman following a change of command ceremony Thursday.

Royal Navy Commodore James Parkin replaced U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Alvin Holsey as commander of the IMSC at a ceremony Thursday in Bahrain.

“The IMSC is committed to ensuring the safety of shipping in the Gulf region, which contains some of the most important choke points in the world. We recognize the importance of freedom of navigation and will ensure it is upheld with its seven member nations,” Parkin said in a statement.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper lauded the United Kingdom’s agreement to command Coalition Task Force Sentinel, which started operations in November under the Middle East-based International Maritime Security Construct.

“We’ve described it as a U.S.-led effort, the IMSC, but clearly we have many partners,” Esper said. “I think the fact that we have the U.K. willing to step up and take leadership of the IMSC, in particular, shows it’s an international effort and we’re all committed to it.”

Joining the U.S. and U.K. in the IMSC are Albania, Australia, Bahrain, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The IMSC operates out of Bahrain. The IMSC was created to maintain the freedom of navigation, international law and free flow of commerce through the region.

In July, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps tried to seize the tanker British Heritage in the Strait of Hormuz. In June, Iranian sectarian forces placed limpet mines on the Japanese-owned petrochemical tanker M/V Kokuka Courageous. U.S. Central Command released footage showing an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy fast attack craft come alongside the Japanese tanker to remove an unexploded limpet mine.

“The IMSC is committed to ensuring the freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman through which over 17,000 ships and one-sixth of global oil production pass each year,” Esper said. “We welcome Commodore Parkin to this vital endeavour which represents an international solution to an international problem.”

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