The survey vessel HMS Echo arrived home safely in Plymouth yesterday afternoon (Thursday 8th October) after 18 months based in the South China Sea on successful military data gathering operations.
HMS Echo also conducted diplomatic visits, in countries including Algeria, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, Hong Kong and South Korea. The multi-role hydrographic and oceanographic survey ship was the first Royal Navy warship to visit Bangladesh in 12 years.
The ship’s executive officer Lieutenant Commander Derek Rae: “HMS Echo has maintained a continuous Royal Navy presence in the Far East for nearly 18 months, conducting important military data gathering operations in demanding environmental conditions, and often a long distance from shore support. To achieve this has required team work from the whole ship’s company who can be justifiably proud of what we have achieved and all have performed in the finest traditions of the Service.”
A highlight of the lengthy time away was taking part in an International Maritime Festival when HMS Echo represented the UK at the Indonesian Navy fleet review, culminating in an impressive sail-past off the coast of Sulawesi.
More than 40 warships from across the world took part in the festival including vessels from Malaysia, Thailand, China, Australia and an American aircraft carrier battle-group. Throughout the fleet review the Indonesians proved to be excellent hosts offering a fascinating insight into the more rural areas of this relatively youthful country.
HMS Echo then visited Brunei and Singapore before commencing the 9,000 mile return journey to Devonport via Cyprus.
Having visited Singapore on 12 occasions over the previous 18 months, it was with sadness that HMS Echo bid farewell for the final time during this deployment. Numerous war memorials attended in the Far East provided a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by previous generations of British armed forces and Singapore will always occupy a special place in the hearts of HMS Echo’s crew.
In her time away from the UK, the crew have forged many friendships and close ties with the support network within Devonport Naval Base.
Other memorable moments included crossing the equator whilst en-route to an informative visit to Jakarta . Here the ship helped build links with the Indonesian Navy’s survey branch, as well as taking part in a Foreign and Commonwealth Office-sponsored outreach programme.
HMS Echo briefly joined the Taurus 09 Task Group to play a key role in Exercise Commando Rajah off the coast of Brunei . The ship again represented the Royal Navy – this time at the South Korean Navy fleet review. In addition to these high-profile events the ship continued to conduct training which included teams from Devonport-based Flag Officer Sea Training organisation visiting on-board in the South China Sea.
During her time away HMS Echo was able to maintain an intensive programme due to the following factors:
Operating independently of support from other ships for the majority of her deployment; operating a watch-manning system allowing her to remain at sea for periods longer than expected of a conventionally manned warship and running a rotational crew system – meaning the ship stays on deployment with crews changed regularly from the UK .
HMS Echo has spent 380 days at sea conducting military data collection and maritime security operations. She has steamed 76,000 nautical miles (equivalent of three times round the equator), including 7,700 nautical miles in one month as part of the homeward transit.
The ship now returns to Devonport to conduct routine maintenance and further training before returning to sea early next year for her next tasking.