Royal Navy warship HMS Portland was waved off by families and friends when she deployed from Plymouth on a seven-month Atlantic patrol.
The Plymouth-based Type 23 frigate left HM Naval Base, Devonport, this morning to provide on-going protection and reassurance to British interests in the region. This maintains the continuous Royal Naval presence in the Atlantic. A small crowd gathered on Devil’s Point with good luck banners as they bade farewell to the ship sailing through Plymouth Sound to sea.
HMS Portland will undertake maritime security operations, including counter-narcotics and anti-piracy patrols, providing opportunities to work with other navies to strengthen ties and demonstrate the Royal Navy’s commitment to the region.
Commanding Officer of HMS Portland, Commander Sarah West said: ”This deployment marks the culmination of a busy period regenerating HMS Portland from upkeep to operational status. My ship’s company are looking forward to the challenges offered by the deployment and the opportunity to work alongside other navies.’’
Cdr West, the first female commander of a Royal Naval major warship, said: “I have been in the Navy for 18 years and taking this ship on deployment is the pinnacle of my career. I have a great ship’s company and they are also looking forward to the deployment ahead.’’
She also thanked families and friends for their support to her and her crew in taking the ship out of a maintenance and through intensive ship’s trials and training with Flag Officer Sea Training staff. She leaves a sister and mother and many friends back in the UK, but will be keeping in touch by email and phone.
Able Seaman Stephen Webster, 19, lives near Chippenham, Wiltshire, this is his first ship and deployment. He said: “I’m looking forward to doing everything the Navy offered – to travelling the world and doing an interesting and challenging job.’’
He works in the weapons engineering section with communications and sensors systems. He leaves a brother and parents behind at home: “It won’t be easy not seeing my family for several months. But I’m looking forward to going seeing them on the jetty when we come back.’’
Able Seaman Hazel Hicks, 28, of Plymouth, has been in the Navy for two years and this is her first deployment. She is a logistics specialist, but will also be taking over an emergency team to fight fires and floods.
Hazel, who married Darren six months ago, said: “This is my first ship and first deployment. I’m used to travelling abroad and being away from my family. It’s not totally new to me, because I’ve been on a major sea-going exercise off Scotland and learned about lack of sleep on defence watches, for example. But being on a naval deployment is an unknown to me, therefore, it’s exciting and I’m keen to get going.’’
Engineering Technician (Weapon Engineering) Steven Webster, 19, from Calne, Wiltshire, said: “I am looking forward to putting my training into practice throughout this deployment and the opportunity to visit many different countries.”
HMS Portland emerged from a 12-month upkeep period in Rosyth, Scotland, a year ago. After an extensive period of sea trials in which the ship demonstrated the capability of her advanced weapon and sensor systems, she undertook intensive sea training under plymouth-based Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) last summer.
HMS Portland is one of 13 Type 23, Duke Class frigates serving in the Royal Navy. The Type 23 frigate is the mainstay of the surface fleet in the modern Royal Navy. Originally, the frigate was a fast, manoeuvrable craft, required to scout ahead of the main fleet. It was, invariably, lightly armed. Today’s modern frigate is capable of this and much more. Importantly, the Type 23 is, in comparison with similar sized ships serving in other navies, heavily armed.