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The U.S. Navy’s amphibious assault ship USS Boxer has taken over as the flagship for the Navy’s anti-piracy efforts in coastal waters off Somalia and the Middle East, officials said.

The Boxer replaces the USS Vella Gulf, which has headed the effort since the Navy’s 5th Fleet established Combined Task Force 151 in January as part of a multination anti-piracy effort that patrols and monitors 1.1 million square miles of water, including the Gulf of Aden, Red Sea, Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea.

Shipping lanes there are used by roughly 23,000 commercial vessels each year.

"We’ve had a great deal of success in deterring piracy to this point," Rear Adm. Terence McKnight, commander of CTF 151, said in a statement.

"We’ve conducted counter-piracy operations on the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio, two guided-missile cruisers, USS Vella Gulf and USS Monterey, and now we’re going to continue our mission on Boxer, which continues our line of extremely flexible platforms. Boxer has a lot to offer in the fight against piracy."

The Boxer, homeported in San Diego, took command Sunday after entering the Navy’s 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

"Piracy isn’t a problem that affects one or two nations," McKnight said.

"It’s a problem that affects the whole world and the free flow of commerce in the world’s waterways.

Piracy requires an international solution."

The Boxer’s embarked units include the Amphibious Squadron 5, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 21 Detachment 3, Naval Beach Group 1, Assault Craft Units 5 and 1, Beach Master Unit 1, Fleet Surgical Team 5 and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The 13th MEU is comprised of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 (Reinforced), Combat Logistics Battalion 13 and Battalion Landing Team 1/1.

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