The Type 23 frigate sailed from Portsmouth on 1 February 2010 for an action-packed deployment in the Gulf which included providing maritime security, promoting British trade, and supporting defence diplomacy.
Within the first few weeks, and after safely travelling through the Suez Canal, HMS St Albans sprinted to join the anti-piracy effort north of Somalia as part of a multinational task force.
Quickly in the thick of operations, the ship’s Merlin helicopter was used to extend patrols of the area and on one occasion found a suspicious pair of boats. Royal Marines Boarding Teams then sped to the skiffs, and on boarding them found a hoard of equipment used by pirates to attack ships. The pirates were then sent back to Somalia and their equipment destroyed.
After this early success, ‘The Saint’ arrived in the busy waters of the Gulf where she would remain for the majority of her time away.
Much of that time was spent stationed in the far north of the Gulf protecting Iraqi oil terminals through which more than 85 per cent of Iraq’s wealth flows and on which the economy, and the rebuilding of Iraq, depends.
Gradually the Iraqis are taking back the control and defence of their seas and part of the tasking was to assist the training teams with building the Iraqi capability.
Away from Iraqi waters, HMS St Albans joined the Kuwait-led coalition providing security throughout the Gulf.
One of the world’s strategic waterways, a large proportion of international trade comes through these waters, mixing with the local fishermen and traders. Many of these dhows were visited by the ship’s company in an effort to reassure the maritime community, and their reports back help to deter much of the maritime robbery and piracy which hinder freedom of trade.
Aside from these patrols the ship had a busy programme that included visiting numerous nations stretching from the Mediterranean to the Gulf. In Qatar, HMS St Albans represented the UK at the Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition 2010 - a busy four days alongside supporting the UK defence industry.
On the way back towards the Suez Canal the focus was back on the counter-piracy effort with a visit to Yemen where the embarked Royal Marines Boarding Teams carried out training and demonstration boardings of a Yemeni patrol craft. This was all witnessed by Yemeni VIPs, including the Regional Head of the Yemeni Coastguard.
Commander Adrian Pierce, Commanding Officer of HMS St Albans, said:
This has been an ultimately satisfying and successful but, at times, testing six months, during which we have experienced and risen to a whole range of challenges.
I have been consistently impressed by the resilience, determination and sheer professionalism of my sailors.
HMS St Albans has promoted the UK’s capacity to build understanding between navies and mariners, to maintain and promote alliances, and this has been at the core of all that we have successfully achieved over the last six months within the Gulf region.