ABOARD KHAWR AL AMAYA OIL TERMINAL, Iraq (NNS) -- The Iraqi Navy assumed control of the Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminal (KAAOT) during a ceremony April 30 aboard the terminal in the North Arabian Gulf.
This turnover is the first step of a multi-step naval transition plan that will eventually transfer security responsibilities to the Iraqi Navy.
"The Iraqi Navy is ready and capable of assuming security responsibility for KAAOT," said Rear Adm. T.C. Cropper, commander, Task Force Iraqi Maritime (CTF-IM).
"This milestone represents another indication of increasing Iraqi operational independence. It's very important to the way ahead and the future of Iraq."
U.S. and coalition forces have maintained a presence on KAAOT since April 2004, assisting the Iraqi Navy by helping provide security to their oil platforms, which account for approximately 70 to 85 percent of Iraq's gross domestic product.
Coalition forces have operated jointly with Iraqi Navy sailors and marines, training them in point-defense force protection and visit, board, search and seizure operations.
"Our Sailors have labored diligently to make this day possible, working by, with and through the Iraqi Navy in a very close partnership," said Capt. Karl Van Deusen, commander, Combined Task Force (CTF) 55, which is responsible for providing security to the oil platforms. "They have brought great credit upon our Navy and our nation."
U.S. and UK forces will continue to operate jointly with the Iraqi Navy to provide training and assistance in support of future security transfers in accordance with a security agreement, to include Iraq's other key oil platform, the Al Basrah Oil Platform.
"It's my duty to defend the oil terminal", said an Iraqi Marine aboard KAAOT. "It belongs to my country. It belongs to my people. Our economy is based on it. I take pride in doing so."
The U.S. Navy will continue to conduct maritime security operations (MSO) in the North Arabian Gulf and provide assistance as requested. MSO help set the conditions for security, which promotes stability and prosperity in the North Arabian Gulf. These operations protect Iraq's sea-based infrastructure, which provides the Iraqi people the opportunity for self-determination. MSO complement the counterterrorism and security efforts of regional nations and seek to disrupt violent extremists' use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.
For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/cusnc/.