Prime Minister Theresa May spoke to the Royal Navy personnel serving on HMS Ocean in Bahrain to thank them for their vital work in the Gulf.
This is a particularly special moment for me because it is my first time as Prime Minister on board a Royal Navy ship.
And it’s a proud one too as I have the privilege of talking to you – our brave men and women who put yourselves on the line to keep our people safe and protect Britain’s interests around the world.
Britain takes enormous pride in our Royal Navy – known the world over for its professionalism and expertise – and for the dedication and courage of its sailors, Royal Marines and officers. And I am delighted to see and hear for myself the terrific work you are doing out here where more than ever Gulf security is our security.
This week I am in Bahrain to attend the Gulf Co-operation Council to reaffirm our partnership with the GCC countries, and to step up our defence and security co-operation to keep British citizens safe at home and abroad, and to ensure the stability necessary for global and UK prosperity.
Here on HMS Ocean all of you are a vital part of Britain’s global mission and your role in our commitment to security in the Gulf could not be more important.
And you can be very proud of everything you are doing.
That you have been selected to command Coalition Task Force 50 – taking over from the US Navy in the coalition’s naval operations against Daesh – is a huge vote of confidence in you, and the Royal Navy.
And I want to wish you every success as you continue in this task.
I know you have also been playing a vital role in maritime security operations to tackle illegal trafficking and to keep shipping channels safe from threats such as piracy. The Middle East accounts for over a third of global oil – and around 15% of gas exports – so protecting the free and unhindered flow of commerce on the seas is crucial to maintaining stable energy markets and ensuring the UK’s own energy security.
I also want to mention the incredible work of other Royal Navy assets in the region. From our Destroyers who have provided in excess of 3,000 hours of air defence protection to our partners, HMS Defender’s successful drugs seizure in the Gulf of Aden – with a haul of over 1,000 kilograms of high grade cannabis, and an estimated street value of approximately £5.6 million – to the outstanding, persistent efforts of our mine hunters, and their command platform RFA Lyme Bay.
But this is not just about hard power military activities, it is also about what you do as an ambassador for Britain, supporting diplomacy and strengthening our long-term relationships – whether that’s through joint exercises, hosting foreign VIPs or undertaking port visits.
And I know there are several other exercises and visits planned while HMS Ocean is deployed in the region.
So today – as we face multiple global challenges and an increasingly uncertain and dangerous world – you are vital to protecting our nation’s interests and provide a clear demonstration of the UK’s enduring security commitment to the Gulf.
And as Britain steps up, to forge a new, positive, confident role for our country on the global stage, the Royal Navy will be an important part of our vision – pursing our objectives of security on land and at sea and helping to ensure the free flow of international trade.
That’s why I want to see us continue to invest in the Royal Navy’s future.
As prime minister one of my first acts was to commit to Britain’s long-term security and back the renewal of our nuclear submarines.
And I am very pleased that we can now get on with the task of building the next generation of 4 Dreadnought-class nuclear submarines.
We are also introducing 2 of the largest aircraft carriers in Royal Navy history, together with the F35B Joint Strike Fighter – which will provide us with the most potent carrier strike capability in the world after the United States by 2023.
But today I am primarily here to hear first hand about the work you do. And the most important thing I have to say is a heartfelt thank you on behalf of our country for your service and your sacrifice.
Your commitment to our country is unfaltering – and in return we owe you the same deep commitment and unflinching support.
I know many of you will be away from home this Christmas. I can only imagine how tough that must be for some of you – and the difficulty of being separated and at such a distance from your loved ones.
Perhaps more than any other this time of year brings home the extraordinary sacrifices made by you and your families.
So on behalf of everyone back home in Britain, let me say once again a huge thank you.