The Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond, has travelled to Bahrain to visit the United Kingdom Maritime Component Command (UKMCC) headquarters.
During his visit, Mr Hammond met the team at the UKMCC and found out first-hand about the Royal Navy’s presence in the Gulf.
The UK has provided an enduring naval commitment to the region for more than 30 years, culminating in today’s presence which includes a frigate, a destroyer and four mine countermeasures vessels (MCMVs) as well as numerous personnel who are dedicated to reassuring our allies and protecting both UK interests and those of the wider international community.
Some of this valuable work includes providing support to the Combined Maritime Forces, a multinational partnership of 26 nations conducting a broad spectrum of maritime security operations in the area, encompassing both counter-piracy and counter-terrorism duties.
After visiting the UKMCC headquarters, Mr Hammond then called on the ship’s company of HMS Ramsey, one of the MCMVs based in Bahrain.
On board, Mr Hammond announced that the Royal Navy will join with forces from more than 20 nations spanning four continents for the International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX 12) taking place in the region from 16-27 September 2012.
Speaking about the Royal Navy’s involvement in the exercise, Mr Hammond said:
I was pleased to have the opportunity to meet members of the Royal Navy in the Gulf and see first-hand the excellent work they are doing in the region protecting the UK’s interests and those of the global maritime community.
The UK is committed to a standing presence in the Gulf to ensure freedom of navigation in international waters such as the Strait of Hormuz.
The International Mine Countermeasures Exercise 2012 is part of this work and will allow the Royal Navy to showcase its cutting-edge mine countermeasures experience, expertise and technology.
It is also an excellent opportunity to work with other nations to enhance international co-operation and interoperability with others operating in this crucial field.
IMCMEX 12 will be hosted by US Naval Forces Central Command and will be a combination of an international symposium followed by an at-sea mine countermeasures exercise conducted across a number of locations in the Middle East ranging from the Red Sea to the Gulf.
Commenting upon IMCMEX 12, Commodore Simon Ancona, United Kingdom Maritime Component Commander and head of UK naval forces in the region, said:
As a professional naval force acting to protect legitimate maritime activities and secure the freedom of navigation for seafarers the Royal Navy is pleased to support this initiative and looks forward to sharing experiences with all participating members.
The Royal Navy has based a squadron of Sandown and Hunt Class MCMVs in the region since 2006 as the warm water and challenging local environmental conditions make it an ideal location to train and maintain mine countermeasures capabilities.
They are currently supported by a Bay Class Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship which, when combined with the minehunters, makes the UK one of the few nations that can truly demonstrate an integrated and expeditionary mine countermeasures capability.