Navy's new Gulf home almost ready for first sailors

A ‘Noah’s Ark’ of goodies has arrived in Bahrain to turn empty buildings into the Royal Navy’s first new overseas establishment in half a century.

49 container loads of equipment have been offloaded at Mina Salman in the kingdom, the new complex which will be the hub of naval operations in the Gulf, Red Sea and Indian Ocean.

Once the equipment – beds, bedding, desks, chairs, cookers, fridges, lamps, gym kit, basically everything needed to support a permanent presence in the central Gulf – has been installed, the site will be ready to host sailors and Royal Marines, who currently live in apartments peppered around Bahrain.

Waiting on the jetty for MV Hurst Point, one of the MOD’s bulk ro-ro transporters used for shipping military kit around the globe, to offload the containers was Commander Gary Manning, the logistics commander.

“It marks a significant event in the evolution,” he explained. “It’s the culmination of a huge amount of planning work from my highly effective team here in Bahrain, supported by our Royal Navy and MOD colleagues back in the UK.

“The furniture and equipment will now be installed into the facility prior to permanent members of staff based in Bahrain taking occupation in early 2018.

“The logistic and engineering support that we will deliver to ships operating from Bahrain will bring a step change in the way we operate in the region.”  

Bahrain offers much improved facilities over the existing jetty and warehouses, better support for any British warship operating in the region – all the way up to the new Queen Elizabeth-class carriers – and provide welcome relief for crews of the four RN minehunters based in Bahrain.

When their ships undergo maintenance to sustain their three to three-and-a-half-year missions in the Middle East, the 40-45 sailors will move ashore.

More typically, on a daily basis, Bahrain will be home to around 200 British military personnel and supporting civilians, spread across around half a dozen cream-coloured blocks, stores/workshop complex and central galley/welfare/entertainment/cinema/shop/gym facility.

The site is designed to accommodate just over 300 people, or nearly 550 for short periods if the transit block is used and empty bed spaces across the site are occupied. And two VIP suites have been allocated for senior visitors.

Ordinarily most sailors and marines based in Bahrain will enjoy modern rooms with either en suite bathrooms, or sharing heads/showers with a neighbouring cabin, and it’s all air conditioned with WiFi throughout.

Shortly before Hurst Point arrived, the Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson paid his first visit to Bahrain and the RN headquarters in theatre, UK Maritime Component Command.

He attended a security summit, the Manama Dialogue, before dropping in on UKMCC and receiving a tour of the site from the RN’s senior officer in the region: Cdre Steve Dainton, who directs the day-to-day operations of more than 700 RN and RFA personnel and their ships and helicopters.

The logistic and engineering support that HMS Jufair will deliver to ships operating from Bahrain will bring a step change in the way we operate in the region

Commander Gary Manning, the logistics commander