Warship entertains a sea of visitors

HMS Northumberland ships company during their vist at the Defence Convention Centre in Abu Dhabi for NAVDEX in the Middle East.'Maxine Davies
HMS Northumberland ships company during their vist at the Defence Convention Centre in Abu Dhabi for NAVDEX in the Middle East.'Maxine Davies

IT’S been a busy few weeks for HMS Northumberland.

The county’s namesake Royal Navy warship is half-way through an eight-month deployment to the Middle East.

And her crew have been taking time to get to know the locals, as well as play host to dignitaries and show off the frigate.

The ship recently called into Bahrain for a port visit to the home of the UK Maritime Component Commander and the command’s senior officer Commodore Simon Ancona, who is also Deputy Commander of the 27-nation Combined Maritime Forces in the region, went aboard.

He met the crew captain and special guest Brigadier General Ahmed Khalifa Salman Al Khalifa, who is Commander of the Royal Bahrain Naval Force – an important regional partner.

Commodore Ancona said: “HMS Northumberland has come alongside fresh from providing valuable and direct support to the Combined Maritime Force. She is operating in a challenging environment and it’s obvious that the ship’s company has risen to the challenge.”

There was also time for the company to enjoy some sporting fun, pitting their skills against the Bahrain Rugby Club.

HMS Northumberland lost 21-12 to the local side.

Chief Petty Officer Jamie McNeil said: “This is our fifth game in two years with a new team so I feel the performance they gave was great. Training was limited in the run-up to the game, but we have further games to look forward to and prepare for.”

After the visit the ship returned to sea to continue its operations providing direct support to Combined Task Force 152, conducting maritime security patrols in the Gulf.

But it wasn’t long before the frigate was entertaining more guests at the Naval Defence Exhibition in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

The ship was demonstrating its capability and systems to regional and global partners.

The UK’s focus for the event was on innovation, alliances and joint ventures, highlighting the important strategic defence relationship between the UK and the UAE.

Senior officers attended, including Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Phillip Jones, who thanked personnel for their professionalism and hard work.

He said: “Piracy, drug smuggling, human trafficking and kidnapping have wider implications for global security, no longer being regional challenges.

“As much as 80 per cent of international trade goes by sea, generating £230billion per year. Yet 95 per cent of global trade passes through just nine vulnerable maritime chokepoints, some of them in the Middle East.

“Therefore the UK has a strong interest in keeping good ties with the UAE and the Gulf navies.”

The Combined Maritime Forces partnership is committed to security operations in the Red Sea, Gulf, Indian Ocean and off the Horn of Africa.