The South West Royal Navy warship HMS Somerset is heading to protect Iraq’s oil lifeline while on maritime policing patrol in the Middle East.
The Plymouth-based Type 23 frigate is providing security to the Arabian Gulf region, having left Devonport earlier this year.
In the first week of her current tasking the ship visited 76 vessels, where her boarding team and embarked Royal Marines helped reassure shipping maritime community.
The work follows her passage through the Gulf of Suez, where she helped provide a secure environment for merchant shipping carrying 50% of the world’s annual oil and gas supplies. She was part of Combined Task Force (CTF) 152.
After Suez and into the Gulf of Aden the ship switched to combined task force CTF 151, which focuses on counter-piracy operations. It is a role which HMS Somerset has experience of from an exercise last year. The task force has cut piracy attacks by 15% since it was launched.
Commander Andrew Burns, HMS Somerset’s Commanding Officer, said: ”HMS Somerset is already having significant effect in the Arabian Gulf through her presence and the engagement my boarding team have had with seafarers. The reassurance we have been able to provide to the local community “Indicates the commitment of coalition forces to security and stability. My team are focused on the task in hand and ready for any eventuality in this unpredictable theatre of operations.”
HMS Somerset is moving from general security patrols in the Gulf to the specific role of protecting the Al Basrah Oil Terminal (ABOT) to the north. The terminal is a significant source of revenue for the Iraqi people and essential for the future prosperity of the country
To be ready for the unexpected, HMS Somerset’s sailors and Royal Marines boarding team put their fast boat through its paces by carrying out a training boarding of their own ship.
As HMS Somerset began her Gulf patrols a memorial service was held onboard to remember members of 40 Commando and 1 Mercian Regiment who had been killed in action in Afghanistan. The service was organised by Lieutenant Richard Garman, Private Robin Warburton, and Chaplain Matt Godfrey.
We took the opportunity as we commence Operation Telic to remember those who have been injured and those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan in the service of our country,” said Lt Garman.
The Combined Task Force Iraqi Maritime (CTF IM) is the maritime contribution to Operation Telic.The task force is made up of American and British personnel, working alongside elements of the Iraqi Navy and the Iraqi Marines. The primary mission in the Northern Arabian Gulf (NAG) is maintaining security in and around both the Al Basrah (ABOT) and Khawr Al Amaya Oil (KAAOT) Terminals.
Conducting Maritime Security Operations (MSO), and supporting the development of operational capability of the Iraqi Navy and Marines, are also important elements of the role undertaken by the task force.