UKHMS Somerset heads for Iraq

Cur­rent­ly on mar­itime polic­ing patrol in the Gulf, Roy­al Navy war­ship HMS Som­er­set is now set­ting course to pro­tect an Iraqi oil port.

A boarding party from HMS Somerset
A board­ing par­ty from HMS Som­er­set
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

The Ply­mouth-based Type 23 frigate left Devon­port ear­li­er this year.

In the first week of her cur­rent task­ing, the frigate vis­it­ed 76 ves­sels, with its board­ing team and embarked Roy­al Marines, help­ing to reas­sure the mar­itime ship­ping com­mu­ni­ty.

The work con­tin­ued dur­ing HMS Somerset’s pas­sage through the Gulf of Suez, where the ship, as part of Com­bined Task Force (CTF) 152, helped pro­vide a secure envi­ron­ment for mer­chant ves­sels nav­i­gat­ing a ship­ping lane through which 50 per cent of the world’s annu­al oil and gas sup­plies pass.

Reach­ing the Gulf of Aden, HMS Som­er­set switched to CTF 151, with a new focus on counter-pira­cy oper­a­tions.

It is a role which HMS Som­er­set has expe­ri­ence of from an exer­cise last year. Since its launch, CTF 151 has cut pira­cy attacks by 15 per cent in its area of oper­a­tions.

Com­man­der Andrew Burns, HMS Somerset’s Com­mand­ing Offi­cer, said:

HMS Som­er­set is already hav­ing sig­nif­i­cant effect in the Gulf through her pres­ence and the engage­ment my board­ing team have had with sea­far­ers. The reas­sur­ance we have been able to pro­vide to the local com­mu­ni­ty indi­cates the com­mit­ment of coali­tion forces to secu­ri­ty and sta­bil­i­ty.

“My team are focused on the task in hand and ready for any even­tu­al­i­ty in this unpre­dictable the­atre of oper­a­tions.”

HMS Somerset's boarding party exercises in the Gulf
HMS Somerset’s board­ing par­ty exer­cis­es in the Gulf
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

HMS Som­er­set is mov­ing from gen­er­al secu­ri­ty patrols in the Gulf to the spe­cif­ic role of pro­tect­ing the Al Bas­rah Oil Ter­mi­nal (ABOT) to the north.

Com­pris­ing British and US naval per­son­nel, work­ing along­side ele­ments of the Iraqi Navy and the Iraqi Marines, CTF Iraqi Mar­itime (CTF IM) is respon­si­ble for main­tain­ing secu­ri­ty in and around both the ABOT and Khawr Al Amaya Oil (KAAOT) Ter­mi­nals.

The two oil ter­mi­nals, ABOT and KAAOT, are tremen­dous­ly impor­tant to Iraq. 95 per cent of Iraqi oil is dis­trib­uted from these ter­mi­nals, and the oil indus­try accounts for 75 per cent of Iraq’s Gross Domes­tic Prod­uct. They are there­fore vital to the econ­o­my of Iraq and her ongo­ing recon­struc­tion.

Con­duct­ing Mar­itime Secu­ri­ty Oper­a­tions and sup­port­ing the devel­op­ment of oper­a­tional capa­bil­i­ty of the Iraqi Navy and Marines are impor­tant addi­tion­al ele­ments of the role under­tak­en by the Task Force.

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK