Oil on troubled waters - the Royal Navy in the Gulf

A slightly earlier news story from Kipion:

New Year is no holiday for Royal Navy’s Gulf Force | Royal Navy

Five ships are permanently based at the new UK Naval Support Facility in Bahrain – four minehunters plus one RFA support vessel – soon to become six when frigate HMS Montrose is stationed there in a few months’ time.

In addition, destroyer HMS Dragon is in the Middle East on a seven-month deployment.

The actions of all are directed by the UK Maritime Component Command, the Royal Navy’s Gulf headquarters in a purpose-built building in Bahrain. It’s a ‘24/7/365’ operation.

“New Year’s Day is a working day like any other,” explained Captain John Craig, deputy commander of Royal Navy forces in the Middle East.

“At sea, fishermen fish, dhows move cargo, containers ships transport goods, and tankers carry the oil and gas that keeps the global economy moving.

“Whenever fellow mariners are at sea, so are British warships – 24 hours a day and 365 days a year - making sure that the shipping lanes stay open and stopping anyone who might wish law-abiding mariners harm.”

Coming across an unknown object on the Gulf sea bed on New Year’s Day, HMS Shoreham chose to send its dive team out to investigate, plunging into murky, but mild, waters (about 22°C) to keep their skills and procedures up to date… and to unfurl a White Ensign underwater.

“It might have been New Year’s Day, but we remain ready for any eventuality and my dive team enjoyed the good weather while practising our mine clearance diving skills,” said Leading Diver Jeremy Osborne.

The crew of HMS Brocklesby, alongside at Mina Salman Port, were readying the Hunt-class ship for the first patrol of 2019, carrying out engineering maintenance with the help of Forward Support Unit 2 – a team of specialist technicians based in Bahrain permanently on hand to help with larger engineering jobs.

“Regardless of what day it is, the Forward Support Unit is here to provide the engineering support to maintain the full capability of the minehunters,” said Warrant Officer 1st Class Paul Lewis, in charge of the unit.
French, American and British ships complete Artemis Trident 19 in Gulf

In the fictional scenario, 70 nautical miles of channels and routes were cleared for simulated shipping using multiple, integrated sensors. Geographically dispersed forces practiced choke point clearance and harbor breakout according to the US Navy.

“The exercise involved over 700 personnel, 10 ships, and five helicopters from the three nations. The ships included the U.S. Navy expeditionary sea base USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), fleet ocean tug USNS Catawba (T-ATF 168), Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship USS Sentry (MCM 3), Island-class coastal patrol boats USCGC Maui (WPB 1304) and USCGC Wrangell (WPB 1332); the United Kingdom’s RFA Cardigan Bay (L3009) and minehunters HMS Shoreham (M112) and HMS Ledbury (M30); and the French Marine Nationale’s minehunters FS L’Aigle (M647) and FS Sagittaire (M650).”

As part of the exercise, FS L’Aigle and HMS Ledbury simultaneously rafted with the RFA Cardigan Bay.

RFA Cardigan Bay’s support increased the endurance of the mine hunters, demonstrating how a multinational force could conduct sustainment and repairs during extended mine clearance operations.

In another scenario, six of the ships practiced collective self-defense, working together to defend themselves from simulated air and surface threats.

Mine clearance to allow humanitarian shipping was part of operations in Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011.
The current situation in the Strait of Hormuz underlines the importance of the naval commitment to the Gulf and wider Middle East.

Middle East tanker threat: here come the convoys

"Prices will go up on all fronts," said Admiral Sir James Burnell-Nugent, former risk advisor to Shell Shipping, and a former Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Navy.

"While the Americans might advise against transits – as they have done before – that cannot last for more than 24 hours as it is very difficult to ‘turn the taps off’." Admiral Burnell-Nugent thinks most operators will continue trading, as there is "safety in numbers", and that coalition navies will likely be drawn in.


The best part of a day is, of course, still plenty of time for a vessel to be exposed. But here are some actions that can be taken to mitigate the risk, courtesy of Admiral Burnell-Nugent:
  • Get regular updates from security consultants.
  • Establish close links with MTO Dubai and get regular updates.
  • Get in touch with US Navy in Bahrain for their updates.
  • Safer to be underway than at anchor.
  • Safer to be going as fast as is safe from the navigation point of view.
  • Small amounts of rudder when underway so the ship gently weaves, will make things more difficult for attackers.
  • Since these attacks seem to be taking place at night, better to transit the Straits in daylight – but be alert for changing patterns of operation.
  • Get night vision binoculars if you are underway or at anchor at night.
  • Be ready to communicate with coalition warships on VHF.
  • Much as was done with counter-piracy, deploy lookouts at port and starboard bow and quarter of the ship, including when at anchor.
  • Have searchlights and cameras ready if anything suspicious is spotted – again at port and starboard bow and quarter of the ship.
  • Loud hailer – “You have been spotted and photographed”.
  • Do not take action with flares or rockets – this might draw counter-fire
  • Keep calm. Tankers are massive vessels and although they may billow masses of smoke, flames and oil spills, catastrophic explosions or other events are very unlikely. The media and images make things look much, much worse than they actually are.
Thanks. I’ve checked my novel medications and they are all manufactured in the UK and I’ll make sure I have a few stockpiled, just in case (collectively £32,000 per month). But I do worry where the hell the NHS will get its staff from. Most of the consultants and theatre staff are from Europe, at least in London hospitals. I go under the knife tomorrow and I’ll ask some of them where they think their future lies.
TBH, i think most right minded folk know we need to accept certain professions and skills no where more so than the NHS, its the ones that turn up with out streched hands expecting grants and homes fit for a king that has caused resentment
I’ll tell you what the RN is doing in the Gulf - hogging all the sun beds round the pool at the British Club in Bahrain in the middle of the working day! If I was paying UK tax at the time I would have been livid. As it was I had it in the ear all day from Mrs Jorrocks about bloody military, you’re all the same yaddah yaddah yaddah!
I’ll tell you what the RN is doing in the Gulf - hogging all the sun beds round the pool at the British Club in Bahrain in the middle of the working day! If I was paying UK tax at the time I would have been livid. As it was I had it in the ear all day from Mrs Jorrocks about bloody military, you’re all the same yaddah yaddah yaddah!
Yeah sorry the deck department had a half day. The lazy barstewards will be back hard (relatively) at it tomorrow!

At least the matelots are not sh***ing in the pool these days...

Royal Navy frigate ‘on standby’ amid fears Iran could seize oil tanker

Defence chiefs are considering plans to order a Royal Navy frigate escort for a BP oil tanker through the Gulf after Iranian officials threatened to impound British vessels.

British Heritage, a tanker owned by BP Shipping and registered in the Isle of Man, is off the coast of Saudi Arabia after Tehran today repeated the threat, which it first issued last Friday. That was a response to the detention of an Iranian tanker in Gibraltar because of fears it could be used to breach sanctions. The fate of the tanker is now being debated at the highest levels, with the future of shipping in the Strait of Hormuz at the entrance to the Gulf, the world’s most important shipping lane for oil and gas, at stake.

Iran has threatened to close the Strait periodically if its vessels are blocked from trading oil as a result of the Trump administration’s decision to reimpose tight sanctions on it. The United States, Britain and other allies have been equally vehement that the Strait must remain open and said “all options” would be considered to ensure this happened.

HMS Montrose, a Royal Navy frigate based in Bahrain, is in the Gulf and is understood to have been alerted to a possible operation to “shadow” British Heritage as it sails. BP and Royal Dutch Shell are both refusing to comment on the vessel’s fate, fearing any escalation in the situation. Vessel tracking websites today showed that British Heritage was still in the Gulf, well clear of Iranian waters, off the Saudi port of Dammam. A Royal Navy spokesman refused to comment on whether a request for naval protection had been received.......

British officials are said to be in close touch with the US and other allies about the threat to shipping in the region. A firm decision on what to do next has not been made as yet, The Times understands.......

British Heritage had been due to pick up oil from the Iraqi port of Basra on a contract with Royal Dutch Shell, according to the financial news agency Bloomberg........

Vessel-tracking websites showed that the British Heritage, which was already in the Gulf, changed course on Saturday and failed to dock in Basra. The port, the key node at the head of the Gulf for Iraq’s oil industry, is a few miles from the Iranian border and any shipping that docks there has to skirt Iranian territorial waters. The vessel is reluctant to try to leave the Gulf, which would also mean coming close to Iranian waters. The Strait of Hormuz is only 40 miles across at its narrowest point, with Iranian vessels also present.

Major General Mohammad Bagheri, head of Iran’s armed forces, renewed its threat to British shipping this morning. “Capture of the Iranian oil tanker based on fabricated excuses will not be unanswered and when necessary Tehran will give appropriate answer,” he said.

Separately, the Gibraltar authorities said that tests had confirmed the Grace 1 was “filled to the brim” with crude oil, discounting other claims that it was carrying fuel oil........
Surprise, surprise... (well, not really)

It does, however, bring home how thinly spread the RN frigates are. More T26s or more T31s would help but I guess it's budgeting for extra manpower too...

Iranian boats 'attempted to impede' British oil tanker in strait of Hormuz
The number of frigates and destroyers is not new. Many of us have been trying to flag up the issues for years, along with the need for people. Manpower is a greater concern right now. Both the RN and RAF expected an manpower uplift of something like 1500 people as part of SDSR 15, but Dopey Dave made promises to backbenchers about 'Army numbers'
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Book Reviewer
I'm sure that they're very professional and all that but what are they achieving? We must be attempting to achieve an effect, what is it and how long do we need to achieve it for?

Looks to be the Nautical equivalent of Iran driving boats up and down the English channel.
And there you have the classic Pongo world view of why the RN exists and - what use is it?

Sea power | military


" The main purpose of sea power has always been to protect friendly shipping from enemy attack and to destroy or hinder the enemy’s shipping—both commercial and military. "

Despite the best attempts of successive governments since 1989, Britain still has it.
Much reduced and a pitiful shadow of what it was - but still there.

So does France.
Germany ,Spain and Italy maintain a lower level of blue-water capability.

The reason you don't see Iranian gunboats cruising up and down La Manche is because they don't have it.

Nor have any interest in it beyond the narrow confines of the Gulf.

As a small European country surrounded by salty water which trades extensively outside Europe, Britain has historically depended on the sea for so much.

If the Royal Navy Presentation Team are still in being (?) and they come to a school or a local venue near you, pop along and spend 15 minutes taking onboard what they have to say.

I can absolutely assure you it will be time well spent.


Book Reviewer
It's unfortunate that this normal, everyday activity for the RN has popped up
  • at the tailend of the Parliamentary session
  • just before everyone takes the Summer ( or even 2 weeks) off
  • at a time when the latest adornment to the Oval Office needs the world to look at HIM

Traditionally known as 'the Silly Season' ,old fashioned newspapers would vainly try and fill blank space with stories that in normal times would be 'spiked' So...cue:

' Sharks spotted off holiday beaches'......

'Phewottascorcha - sizzling times'...... (Fiona 23, takes a dip in a fountain)

' Freddy Starr (RIP) ate my hamper ' ....

'Wimbledon reels at strawberry shocker '

'Navy has more Admirals than ships' (The Sun - incorrectly but annually )

The Interweb age and rolling 24 hour News cycle has just exacerbated the problem.
Much of this is normal activity, but the belligerence of the IRGCN is not, and the headlines a useful to remind people of why why need a Navy, our dependence on shipping, and how we need to have capable and equipped warships with fully worked up crews.

Mr Hunt - put your money where your mouth is, and say you well make sure the Royal Navy (and RAF) get the manpower uplift they expected in 2015. No good talking about more ships until we have more people.
Royal Navy provides security to shipping in the Middle East | Royal Navy

One third of all the world’s oil carried by tankers passes through the Strait of Hormuz with an average of ten tankers sailing through every day carrying upwards of 17 million barrels of oil.

There are seven Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels, with embarked Royal Marines for force protection, now committed to the region. These are:

1x Type 23 frigate HMS Montrose, stationed in Bahrain until 2022 as part of the Royal Navy’s permanent presence in the Middle East;

  • 1x Type 45 destroyer HMS Duncan;
  • 4x Mine Counter Measures Vessels HMS Ledbury, HMS Blyth, HMS Brocklesby and HMS Shoreham;
  • 1x Landing Ship Dock Auxiliary RFA Cardigan Bay.
Tanker RFA Wave Knight will also undertake operations in the region at the start of August as part of her long-planned deployment to the Middle East. Her role is to deliver food, fuel, water and other essential supplies to ships of the Royal Navy and our allies.

Later in the year, Type 23 frigate HMS Kent will deploy to the Gulf to take over from HMS Duncan.

The UK has a long-standing maritime security presence in the Gulf and Indian Ocean. Since 1980, ships of both the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary have maintained a presence in the region 365 days a year.

The operation – codenamed Kipion – is part of the UK’s commitment to promoting peace, stability, and the free flow of trade through some of the world’s most vital shipping lanes
With the Martlet trials done on Sunderland for increased protection for swarm boat attack are any of the present RN vessels in the Gulf area deploying them?
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