Bangladeshi naval officers call MTF stint in Lebanon memorable

Bangladesh navy ships BNS Osman and BNS Madhumati docked at Port Sultan Qaboos (PSQ) for two days on the journey back to home country after a two-year stint as part of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in Southern Lebanon.

The ships were part of the Maritime Task Force (MTF), the naval arm of UNIFIL, set up after the 2006 Lebanon War.

NavySMAK Azad, contingent commander and commanding officer, BNS Osman, said, “Naval ships of several countries took turns to take part in the maritime security stint in the last two years. We have celebrated several festivals with our counterparts from other countries. Each one of us had a story to share about our respective countries, cultures, religious beliefs and families.

“This is something that will remain with us forever. It was an enriching experience. It was one big family. Each one of us shared a special bonding with fellow members of other naval ships.”

As mandated by the United Nations Security Council, UNIFIL MTF has been deployed since October 2006 upon request of the Lebanese government to assist its navy in securing the territorial waters and to help prevent unauthorised entry of arms or related material by sea into Lebanon.

Commander Sharif, commanding officer, BNS Madhumati said, “My family joined me on the ship.

Families of naval personnel from other countries visited us and vice versa. Sharing recipes and our way of life with them was such a great experience. My children have returned to Bangladesh and are sharing their experiences with friends. I feel that I am blessed to get an opportunity to live such a life.”

MTF units operate along the entire Lebanon coastline and cover 43 nautical miles westwards into the Mediterranean Sea. The first 12 nautical miles from the Lebanese coastline constitute its territorial waters. MTF units conduct continuous surveillance of merchant traffic, particularly along the approach corridors to Beirut, Tripoli and Sidon harbours.

MTF has established a naval presence and surveillance over the area of its operations. Its other responsibilities include conducting maritime interdiction operations, including identification and, within Lebanese territorial waters, stopping and diverting or referring suspect merchant vessels for inspection by Lebanese authorities.

If requested by the Lebanese Armed Forces-Navy (LAF-Navy), MTF personnel also board and inspect a suspect vessel. The long-term objective of MTF is to hand over security responsibilities to LAF-Navy in a phased manner.

BNS Osman and BNS Madhumati were scheduled to leave PSQ on Monday night.

– Muscat Daily