HMS Bulwark deployed at short notice on 5 May with the immediate mandate to save lives. During her deployment she has saved more than 3,000 lives but is now returning to the UK for planned maintenance.
The UK has been at the forefront of the Search and Rescue mission and will continue to make an important contribution.
HMS Bulwark and her crew will hand over to HMS Enterprise, a Survey Vessel Hydrographic and Oceanographic (SVHO). She is well suited to the next stage of the EU’s operation, which aims to go after the criminal gangs and smugglers. The ship will contribute to the broad maritime capabilities desired by the Italian Operational Commander and will assist in the understanding and picture building of how the operation will go on to seize and disrupt the assets of smugglers.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:
HMS Bulwark has played a vital role in dealing with the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean, saving more than 3,000 lives.
But we’ve always been clear that to tackle the migrant crisis Europe needs a comprehensive plan that tackles the problem at source. That means going after the criminal gangs, the smugglers, the owners of the boats – the people who are making money out of this trade in misery.
As a multi role survey ship, HMS Enterprise is well placed to provide important assistance as we now move into this next stage. Meanwhile, HMS Bulwark will return to the UK for essential maintenance.
The deployment of HMS Enterprise will see the UK make an appropriate contribution to the evolving Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) operation in the Mediterranean. However she will continue to respond to vessels in distress as is customary for all maritime vessels. She has the capacity to hold up to 120 people.
Enterprise will host a crew of between 60 and 70 for this mission and it is anticipated she will be on task until the Autumn. She will deploy alongside a broad range of EU member states’ assets, due to be announced following the Foreign Affairs Council today.
A UK Merlin helicopter will also remain on task and will assist in the spotting of migrant vessels.
Key facts on HMS Enterprise:
- She was commissioned on 17 Oct 2003
- She is 90.6 metres long
- She is capable of reaching speeds up to 15 knots
- Previous deployments: Mediterranean in 2004; Middle East in 2005; West Africa in 2007; Africa & Gulf in 2009); Libya evacuation in 2014; Indian Ocean in 2015
- On board she carries a survey motor boat; a RHIB and two lifeboats
- HMS Enterprise is affiliated with the Royal Devon Yeomanry; town of Tiverton (Devon); Reading Bluecoat School CCF; Worshipful Company of Cutlers