The Royal Navy amphibious warfare helicopter carrier hosted the UK’s representative, His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester, and over 400 Nigerian senior officials at an onboard reception as part of the celebrations and participated in the Nigerian Navy Fleet Review which was conducted by the Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.
Meanwhile, Ocean’s Royal Marines from 539 Assault Squadron and her embarked helicopter force participated in the handover of the Joint Maritime Security Training Centre in Lagos from British mentorship to the Nigerian Armed Forces. The centrepiece was a joint demonstration involving both Nigerian sailors and the Royal Marines.
The ship’s company also took the opportunity to reach out to the local community in Ajegunle, an area particularly struck by poverty.
A group from the ‘Ajegunle.org’ project, which helps young people gain skills in information technology/telecommunications, were invited onboard HMS Ocean to meet and speak with the sailors about how they had learned their own skills and achieved careers in the Royal Navy.
25 Ocean sailors, under the direction of the ship’s chaplain, Reverend Ron Martin, made a journey out to two primary schools in Ajegunle where they helped repaint some of the buildings and repair doors and windows. This work was followed by a football game between the schoolchildren and sailors, who handed out England football shirts to the children as prizes.
Reverend Martin commented:
Anything we can do to help make even a small improvement to the lives of these children is worth it; this is one of the more rewarding aspects of the many things we do.
Onboard, 60 Nigerian Navy officer cadets from the Western Naval Academy joined their Royal Navy counterparts for a day of firefighting, navigation, first aid and maintenance training. This was a continuation of the Africa Partnership Station programme which aims to develop the capacity of maritime forces in the West Africa region to improve maritime safety and security.
20 Nigerian Navy sailors joined Ocean for training on her passage from Brazil as part of this scheme. A further 40 naval personnel from Sierra Leone, Benin and Togo have embarked for the next leg of Ocean’s deployment in the Gulf of Guinea, and an additional contingent of 18 officers and ratings from Ghana will join the ship for 24 hours on the way.
As HMS Ocean departed Lagos at the end of an extremely packed and varied four days, her Commanding Officer, Captain Keith Blount, was extremely positive about the visit and the role of the ship in the region:
The timing of this visit clearly demonstrates the UK’s continued commitment to Nigeria. The ship was proud to celebrate Nigeria’s 50th anniversary of independence in style and in the company of His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester.
We have also conducted important military business and have particularly enjoyed working with the Africa Partnership Station programme. We have been delighted to show our Nigerian visitors this extremely versatile warship and how we do our business.
On leaving Nigeria HMS Ocean will be conducting maritime security operations within the Gulf of Guinea and is expected to return to the UK later this year.