Type 45 destroyer HMS Diamond has sailed from Gibraltar to relieve fleet flagship HMS Ocean for disaster relief operations in the Caribbean.
The Portsmouth-based warship left the UK last week for a nine-month deployment to the Middle East on maritime security operations, but was retasked this weekend following the events of Hurricane Irma. She will now take on HMS Ocean’s original mission – the leadership of a major NATO maritime task group.
Having turned around mid-way through the Mediterranean as soon as she received the orders, HMS Ocean is now racing towards Gibraltar where she will pick up disaster relief stores and head immediately to the Caribbean to join the efforts to rebuild the devastated communities there. Diamond and Ocean passed each other in the Med this evening.
The Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Mounts Bay is already in the area, helping the people of the British Virgin Islands by delivering supplies and medical support from her Wildcat helicopter. Royal Marines from 40 Commando are also on the ground in the capital, Tortola, which was one of the worst-affected areas after the Category 5 storm struck.
Commander Ben Keith, the Commanding Officer of HMS Diamond, said: “Responding to disasters like this and delivering humanitarian aid to devastated communities is exactly what the Royal Navy trains for and is always available to do.
“While HMS Diamond won’t be playing a direct part in the delivery of disaster relief to the Caribbean, my ship’s company are pleased to be able to help in a different way, by freeing up our flagship to bring that vital aid.
“The thoughts of everybody in HMS Diamond are today with all those affected by the hurricanes, and we wish the best to all our colleagues across the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force as they work around the clock to send them help.”
HMS Diamond will now pick up the role of the flagship for NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2), which shows the UK’s strong and ongoing commitment to NATO as a key part of the defence of the UK and our allies. SNMG2 also provides potential military options for NATO and the UK to deal with any security emergencies.
HMS Diamond left Gibraltar this morning, having spent the weekend with the community there as it celebrates the 50th anniversary of Gibraltar’s first referendum in 1967, in which Gibraltarians voted to remain under British sovereignty.
Accompanied by Gibraltar’s permanent Royal Navy presence, patrol boats HMS Sabre and Scimitar, HMS Diamond conducted a high-speed ‘sovereignty patrol’ of territorial waters when she arrived on Friday.