Type 23 frigate HMS Somerset is currently on maritime security operations in the Middle East working alongside Saudi Arabian authorities to ensure free and safe passage for ships in local waters, particularly in the Red Sea, which is one of the world’s busiest trade routes and vital to the British economy.
The ship took the chance to stop off in Jeddah to embark fresh provisions, host a number of Saudi dignitaries to promote Anglo-Saudi relations, and give the Royal Marines boarding party a chance to train alongside their counterparts.
HMS Somerset’s Commanding Officer, Commander Paul Bristowe, said:
Saudi Arabia remains a friendly and important nation within the Middle East; the visit has provided an opportunity for the UK to strengthen its diplomatic bonds.
Our Royal Marines were able to train with the Saudi Maritime Border Unit in boarding methods; this helps demonstrate the concerted international effort to ensure maritime security within the region.
During the day, Commander Bristowe hosted key members of the Royal Saudi Navy and Border Guard, including Rear Admiral Ibrahim Al Diligan, the Deputy Western Fleet Commander, and Brigadier Safar Al Ahamar, the Coast Guard Regional Commander.
That evening, an official reception was also held for a variety of local dignitaries on board the ship to strengthen international relations. It was supported by Rear Admiral Mohith Al Shamrani (Royal Saudi Navy) and numerous Consul Generals from nearby embassies.
As a busy commercial port, Jeddah is reliant on secure maritime trade routes within the Red Sea and so enlists the help of warships within the area to ensure that the high seas remain safe places for commercial vessels to transit. The port also provides the ideal opportunity for ships to conduct essential maintenance and resupply provisions while remaining close to allocated patrol areas.
HMS Somerset is working under the multinational Combined Maritime Forces which patrols the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Oman. The endeavour exists to create a lawful and stable maritime environment free from terrorism, smuggling and other illegal activities with the principal mission to deter, disrupt and defeat such actions.
Throughout Somerset’s six-month deployment, her ship’s company has promoted stable and co-operative relationships in the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Tanzania and the Seychelles.