Belgium has transferred to Italy the command of the European maritime surveillance mission in the Strait of Hormuz (EMASOH). That mission was carried out over the past four months from a headquarters in a French naval base in Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates), according to the Ministry of Defense.
The monitoring mission has been operational since the end of February 2020 and aims to secure maritime traffic in the region – vital for the global economy, through the transit of oil and gas – and thus ensure global free trade.
Fleet Admiral Tanguy Botman handed command of the mission to his Italian successor, vice Admiral Stefano Costantino, on Wednesday. During these four months, the Belgian officer relied on a team of eight people, mainly young reservists, a unique fact, according to Defense.
“The mission offers the participating countries-France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece, Germany, Portugal, Italy, Denmark and Norway – a very valuable opportunity to strengthen cooperation ties and coordinate the associated procedures,” the Defense Ministry said on its website.
The Strait of Hormuz connects the Persian Gulf with the Gulf of Oman and has been an important hub of maritime trade for centuries. More than a third of the petroleum products transported by sea pass through this maritime connection.
Since 2019, tensions have risen in the region and incidents have occurred regularly, putting free trade at risk. On May 27, Iran seized two Greek oil tankers passing through the Strait of Hormuz. Iran responded to the earlier seizure of a Russian tanker filled with Iranian oil.
Belgium has been participating in the mission from the beginning, but it was the first time that it was given command. In april last year, Defense deployed the frigate Leopold I in an operation in the Persian Gulf.