UK and Pakistan navies in mid-ocean rendezvous

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

A Royal Navy vessel on anti-piracy patrol in the Gulf of Aden has reinforced ties with the Pakistan Navy after a mid-ocean encounter with a familiar frigate.

Portsmouth-based Type 22 frigate HMS Cornwall met up with the PNS Shah Jahan as the Pakistani vessel joined the international counter-piracy task force in the Gulf of Aden.

The Type 21 frigate Shah Jahan began her life in the UK, being built by Vosper Thornycroft in Southampton and commissioned into the Royal Navy as Amazon Class vessel HMS Active. The ship saw action in the Falklands before being commissioned into the Pakistan Navy in 1994.

The vessels’ crews used the encounter to conduct collaborative training and to reminisce on their shared history.

The Commanding Officer of HMS Cornwall, Commander David Wilkinson, said:

Our links with the Pakistan Navy have always been strong; with Commodore Aleem of the Pakistan Navy and his staff embarked on HMS Cornwall it was entirely appropriate to work with the PNS Shah Jahan to further the co-operation and understanding between our two navies.

It also brought back some very fond memories for those of us who were in the Royal Navy when HMS Active was still in commission under the White Ensign.

HMS Cornwall is currently the command ship for Combined Task Force 151 (CTF 151), the counter-piracy mission of the Combined Maritime Forces - a 25-nation coalition committed to maritime security throughout the Middle East.

The Pakistan Navy has been in command of CTF 151 since the end of November 2010, when Commodore Abdul Aleem relieved Rear Admiral Sinan Ertugrul of the Turkish Navy.

The meeting commenced when the Shah Jahan’s helicopter flew in to convey Commodore Aleem from HMS Cornwall, where he had been embarked, to the Pakistani vessel, where he could welcome her crew to the Task Force patrol and discuss operational matters with her commanding officer.

Personnel from both ships visited each other’s vessels, and the younger British sailors were delighted to experience an earlier class of frigate. Among them was Engineering Technician (Weapons Engineering) Samuel Cassidy, whose father served on a Type 21 frigate and had been part of the team who handed them to the Pakistan Navy:

It was amazing being in a ship that my father knew so well and that I had visited as a little boy - the memories came flooding back,” he said. “I’ve taken loads of photos for my dad and can’t wait to tell him all about it! And it was great to see her in such good shape and at the centre of Pakistan Navy operations.

On board HMS Cornwall, Pakistani sailors were briefed on the current operational situation, on piracy, and on operating procedures for the internationally-recognised ‘safe’ maritime corridor through the Gulf of Aden.

Groups of specialists were given demonstrations in their own areas of interest, culminating in a demonstration of HMS Cornwall’s defensive capabilities against small boats. HMS Cornwall’s boarding team also worked with their Pakistani counterparts and conducted a demonstration boarding of the Shah Jahan.

The two countries’ navies have a long history of co-operation, and this visit showed that unity and understanding at work. Cdre Aleem said:

The provision of security in the maritime environment requires close co-operation and well-established working relationships between international partners; today’s exchange between PNS Shah Jahan and HMS Cornwall is just the latest example of our navies working to achieve this. It has been a tremendous success.

In recent months CTF 151 has included ships from Australia, the Republic of Korea, Pakistan, Thailand, Turkey, the United States and the UK. In addition to Pakistan, the command team includes staff from Canada, the Netherlands and the US.