News story

Royal Navy makes Libyan waters safer

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Survey ship HMS Echo has completed a successful mission to make Libyan waters safer and pass on specialist knowledge to the Libyan Navy.

Three-dimensional image produced by HMS Echo's multibeam echo sounder showing uncharted wrecks in Libyan waters [Picture: Crown copyright]
Three-dimensional image showing uncharted wrecks in Libyan waters

HMS Echo used her sophisticated sonar equipment to map unseen wrecks, reefs and rocks off the Libyan coast and make navigation less hazardous. Significant discoveries included a number of uncharted wrecks in shipping lanes which could have posed a danger to vessels. The operation was the ship’s second visit to Libya following a successful trip in 2012.

In total the ship’s crew surveyed 46.8 square nautical miles, an area equal to that of just under 20,000 football pitches. All of the survey data will be shared with the Libyan Hydrographic Office in order for the area’s charts to be updated.

In addition, specialists from the ship passed their expertise on to members of the Libyan Navy who spent several days on board. The sailors learned the modern surveying methods including side-scan sonar, satellite positioning and electronic data collection to allow the Libyan Navy to take responsibility for mapping their waters in the future.

A chart of Tripoli harbour
A chart of Tripoli harbour [Picture: Crown copyright]

Commander Matt Syrett, the Commanding Officer of HMS Echo, said:

I am delighted that HMS Echo has been able to build upon the relationship started when we visited last year and being part of the UK government’s contribution towards a stable future for Libya is something that my entire team can be proud of.

The Libyan sailors that we have worked alongside have shown themselves to be professional and capable throughout and I am confident that the work we have undertaken and the training provided will make a real impact on the redevelopment of these ports for the Libyan people.

Speaking of the value of the training, Lieutenant Hassan Oun from the Libyan Navy said:

Our brief time on HMS Echo afforded myself and my men a useful introduction into hydrographic surveying operations and the continued co-operation between our navies will enhance our ability to conduct our own surveys in the future.

Multibeam echo sounder image
Multibeam echo sounder image of an object discovered on the sea bed in Libyan waters [Picture: Crown copyright]

The visit of HMS Echo is the latest demonstration of UK support for Libyan authorities since the UK supported the Libyan people in the revolution in 2011. At their summit in June the G8 announced a multinational effort to train 7,000 members of the Libyan Armed Forces in basic infantry skills in order to help with the government’s reintegration programme.

During her visit HMS Echo also served as the venue for high-level talks between the UK’s Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Peter Wall, and counterparts in the Libyan Armed Forces, on 4 July, to discuss the UK’s pledge to train troops as part of this work.

The UK Minister for International Security Strategy, Dr Andrew Murrison, who visited Libya on board HMS Kent in April 2013, said:

This government and Britain’s Armed Forces have repeatedly demonstrated our support to a free Libya and we will continue to do everything we can to improve the security of the country.

Our intervention in 2011 was the start of our partnership with the people of Libya and we will continue to stand by them.

Published 5 July 2013