Shoreham takes brief break after five hectic months

After five intensive months of operations in the Gulf, the crew of HMS Shoreham are enjoying a mini-breather as their ship undergoes a spot of TLC in Bahrain.

The Sandown-class ship has been in almost non-stop use since the turn of the year – a demanding operational schedule in a particularly challenging environment which requires a short period of maintenance at the hub of Royal Navy operations in the Middle East, the UK Naval Support Facility in the small Gulf state.

The minehunter is currently operated by the men and women of Faslane’s Crew 4 who are coming to the end of their tenure before being replaced by another crew from 1st Mine Countermeasures Squadron as part of the regular rotation of sailors every six-seven months.

Crew 4 began their time aboard the ship working with a combined US-UK task group at the turn of the year, using support ship RFA Cardigan Bay to sustain them with additional fuel, food and other supplies – allowing the Sandown-class ship, which specialises in locating and neutralising mines laid in deep waters, to remain at sea for extended periods, rather than having to return to port to stock up.

Since then she’s taken part in combined training with the Kuwaiti Navy further up the western shore of the Gulf.

The visit, in company with Shoreham’s sister HMS Blyth, offered a great chance to build on historic links between the Royal Navy and the Kuwait Naval Force; the RN played a key role in the country’s liberation in 1991 and rendering its waters safe from mines laid by Saddam Hussein’s forces.

This was another great opportunity to improve not only our own ship handling skills but also to work with our Kuwaiti allies, meeting their sailors, their command and showing them how the RN conducts its business with professionalism and efficiency

Shoreham’s Navigating Officer Lt. Matthew Grayson.

After that the ship found herself thrust into a large-scale UK-US mine warfare exercise, orchestrated by the UK’s battle staff and US Task Force 52.

Beyond the typical hunt for/disposal of mines and co-ordination of numerous warships operating closely together in confined waters, self-defence training was thrown into the mix, using US patrol boats and UK helicopters to play the ‘enemy’.

“The combined exercise was a great opportunity to more fully develop operational capability with the US ships – they form half of the UK-US mine-countermeasures capability stationed here. There’s always lots that we can learn from each other,” said mine warfare expert Petty Officer Grant Mallion. And after that it was time for maintenance to ensure Shoreham remains fighting-fit and ready for operations.

The work at Mina Salman is carried out by a mixture of the crew and the Fleet Support Unit, a team of Royal Navy engineers permanently based in Bahrain to support ships operating in the region.

Once the overhaul is complete, Shoreham will head back to sea to continue operations in the region.