Admiral Sir Trevor Soar, Commander-in-Chief Fleet, this week paid a pre-Christmas visit to Royal Navy ships and personnel stationed in the Arabian Gulf.
The Royal Navy has a 12 warships and auxiliaries and 1,300 personnel in the region on tasks including anti-terrorism and maritime security, in support of national interests or co-operating with regional and international partners.
Admiral Soar was able to visit a range of vessels, including frigates, mine hunters and Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships. He also toured operational headquarters, met support staff and visited naval personnel deployed as part of Operation Telic in Iraq.
He visited Plymouth-based warship HMS Cumberland for an overnight stay. The Type 22 frigate has been in the region since November, serving with both combined task force supporting the Iraqi navy and with Combined Task Force 152, a multi-national partnership committed to regional maritime security in the Arabian Gulf. After receiving an operational update, Admiral Soar visited each of the ship’s departments, and met the Royal Marine boarding team.
In the United Arab Emirates he visited Plymouth hydrographic survey ship HMS Enterprise. Devonport-based Royal Navy ship Type 22 frigate HMS Cornwall is also in the region – flagship of the international counter piracy Combined Task Force 151, Admiral Soar said: “The Arabian Gulf contains some of the world’s most important shipping lanes and energy-related infrastructure. Stability and security in this region is directly connected to the UK’s own well-being, and of the international community.
“As people in Britain enjoy their Christmas meal, I hope they will spare a thought for the sailors, Royal Marines and support staff in the Gulf who will be working for their interests over the festive period, as they do 365 days a year, in support of maritime security and freedom of the seas.”
Commodore Tim Fraser, UK Maritime Component Commander Bahrain, said: “Alongside the nuclear deterrent and our efforts in Afghanistan, the Middle East maritime domain is surely one our most important defence priorities. This is the second occasion in six months that Admiral Soar has visited us. I know the continuing attention and priority which he attaches to our work is greatly appreciated by the Royal Navy ships and personnel in this region.”
Admiral Soar’s visit began in the port of Iraqi port of Umm Qasr on Tuesday (December 21). where a small detachment of Royal Naval personnel remain helping training and develop the Iraqi navy and marines as part of the joint UK-US Iraq Training and Assistance Mission – Navy.
The Admiral toured the naval base and stepped aboard one of the Iraq navy’s brand new Swift class patrol craft, the first of several that will eventually take full responsibility for the security of Iraqi territorial waters.
He flew to a U.S. Navy destroyer USS O’Kane for the transfer to the Iraqi Al Basra oil terminal in the North Arabian Gulf. O’Kane is part of the UK-US Combined Task Force Iraqi Maritime, tasked with protecting the oil terminals, through which the majority of Iraq’s oil flows. Onboard the oil platform, Admiral Soar met Royal Navy and U.S Navy staff are working toward the day when their Iraqi colleagues assume sole responsibility for the securing this key piece of maritime infrastructure, vital to the country’s future economic wellbeing.
Royal Navy Commodore Tony Radakin, Commander of the combined task force said: “The Iraqi Navy is making great progress and now has responsibility for some 80% of all Iraqi territorial waters. I am delighted Admiral Soar saw the substantial contribution personnel from the Royal Navy are making.”
Yesterday Admiral Soar visited Bahrain, home to the UK Maritime Component Command which supports Royal Navy warships, aircraft and out stations in the region. He met staff on intelligence analysis and operational planning and logistical support – vital to Royal Navy operations across 2.5 million square miles of water in the Middle East.
Admiral Soar met Royal Navy personnel of Bahrain-based Combined Maritime Forces, a 25-nation naval partnership committed to maritime security in the Middle East through anti-piracy and counter-terrorism operations.
He embarked on Royal Navy mine hunters HMS Middleton, Grimsby and Pembroke, met engineers from the Fleet Support Unit; and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel RFA Lyme Bay, which acts as afloat headquarters to Commander UK Mine Countermeasures Forces.
Other ships in the regional include Royal Navy support auxiliaries Royal Fleet Auxiliaries Bayleaf and Fort Victoria. RFA Bayleaf, serves as Arabian Gulf Ready Tanker, supporting Royal Navy and coalition warships in the strategically important waterway, while RFA Fort Victoria has just completed a period of counter-piracy operations alongside international navies in the Somali Basin.
The Gulf region has always been a major operational focus for the Royal Navy, largely due to the importance of the region’s sea lanes to domestic and international shipping and energy supplies.