HMS Echo’s visit comes almost a year since she last entered Grand Harbour.
The Plymouth-based hydrographic vessel’s latest deployment will improve seafarers’ knowledge of the Mediterranean, Red Sea, Indian Ocean and the Gulf through mapping of the ocean floor.
Echo began her visit to Malta by opening her doors to the public, showing off the vessel and its advanced ocean-mapping kit to visitors. Members of the Maltese public were given a taster of the vessel’s survey capability, shown around her firefighting equipment and bridge, and treated to a display on the quarterdeck by the ship’s embarked divers.
The visit also provided an opportunity for the ship’s company to undergo training, carry out maintenance, explore some of Malta’s outlying islands, and generally fly the flag for the Royal Navy and UK.
Several members of the crew were invited to the Mediterranean Maritime Search and Rescue Training Centre. The centre provides training for local pilots and tug masters working at the ports of Valletta and Marsaxlokk, who use it to practise the tricky act of moving large ships around, safely, in one of the Mediterranean’s busiest harbours. Some of Echo’s ship’s company seized the chance to simulate driving a commercial ferry into Valletta, while others had the chance to ‘manoeuvre’ a tug in the confined waters of the harbour.
Sub Lieutenant Dan Wardle, a warfare officer under training on HMS Echo, said:
Local knowledge of pilots and tug operators throughout the world helps to ensure that our ships and sailors arrive at and depart each port safely. The opportunity to understand this is invaluable in our own training.
Numerous members of the ship’s company went diving – some taking their first steps, others experienced frogmen – and explored some of the wrecks and caves that litter the coasts of Malta, Comino and Gozo.
HMS Echo has now resumed her survey work. Although the ship will be away from Devonport for 18 months, her sailors are regularly rotated, with a third of the ship’s company at home in the UK on leave or undergoing training courses.