Royal Navy patrol vessel set to return from ‘huge’ deployment

Royal Navy’s River-class patrol vessel HMS Mersey is preparing to return to the UK from what will be a lengthy 13-month deployment.

A remarkable achievement considering the fact that the ship has a company of just 52.

The patrol vessel left Portsmouth in January 2016, heading for the Caribbean before travelling east to the Mediterranean and on to the Aegean.

During her deployment the River-class ship has sailed 38,000 miles and visited 31 ports in 19 countries over three continents.

The crew has used two million litres of diesel and welcomed presidents, ambassadors, heads of Armed Forces and 350 excitable schoolchildren.

The second half of Mersey’s deployment saw her head to the Aegean Sea – via a stopover in Gibraltar – to support the NATO-led operation to combat the migration crisis.

The support was an extension of the UK’s contribution and commitment to tackle illegal people trafficking and migration in the region.

Mersey worked with Standing NATO Maritime Group 2, led by the German Bremen-class frigate FGS Karlsruhe and then by the Dutch light cruiser HMLMS De Ruyter.

Over past 12 months NATO say their operation in the Aegean – which involved 50 ships from 15 nations – resulted in an 80 per cent reduction in the number of migrants trying to reach Greece and Turkey.

The offshore patrol vessel – at 80m in length and a draft of less than five metres – was able to provide the NATO taskforce with an enhanced ability to work closer to the shore.

SNMG2 worked closely with Greek and Turkish coastguards, alerting them to sightings of migrant vessels and enabling them to turn the vessels back or preventing them from attempting the dangerous crossing in the first place.

Mersey deployed to the Aegean from the Caribbean where she was on counter-narcotic operations.

In April she played a key role alongside the Canadian Navy and US coastguard in a £12 million drugs bust where 304kg of drugs were seized.

Mersey also reinforced trade links with Central America and reaffirmed relationships with foreign partners, including the Mexican Navy.