Two of the Royal Navy’s fishery protection vessels practised fast, complicated manoeuvres and live firing skills as part of an annual exercise in the Solent. HMS Mersey and HMS Severn paused their operational duties for several days to take on the rare opportunity of working together for a programme of training, holding conferences and hosting visitors.
For their sea day, the ships companies demonstrated their navigational skills with a series of co-ordinated complex manoeuvres at high speed.
They also held a live firing exercise using their general purpose machine gun and 20mm cannon – as a test of their force protection capabilities.
Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral David Steel, who spent the day on board, said he was impressed with the high standard of professionalism, confidence and commitment of all on board.
“It was an absolute pleasure to visit the ships at sea,” he added
As well as exercising their navigational and ship handling skills at sea, the ship’s companies of the three Portsmouth-based ships HMS Mersey, HMS Severn and HMS Tyne also met up afterwards to and exchange valuable knowledge and collective experience.
At these conferences, squadron staff and their civilian counterparts from the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) – the body that tasks the ships on their operational duties – looked at the Squadron’s efforts for the forthcoming year.
Those personnel not attending the talks attended a ‘sports day’ where teams from HMS Severn and HMS Mersey competed in a volleyball tournament for the WEMYSS Sports Trophy.
Despite a fierce battle between teams, one of the HMS Mersey teams won all three matches and was presented the award by the Squadron Executive Officer.
The annual exercise always culminates with a Squadron Ball, this year held at the Royal Maritime Club in Portsmouth, which enables all members of the Squadron, their families and MMO guests to relax and enjoy a full programme of entertainment.
Uniform and work ties were cast aside and bow-ties, dinner jackets and floor-length gowns made an appearance at the ball hosted by Commander Graham Lovatt, Commander of the Fishery Protection Squadron.
Lieutenant Commander Sarah Oakley, Commanding Officer of HMS Mersey, said:
“This was a fantastic opportunity for the squadron to get together and demonstrate our capabilities.
“We are a small but hard-working squadron and this gives us both the opportunity to prove our capabilities as a Maritime Security platform and also to exchange valuable knowledge between ships to ensure we have the best practices throughout.”
The Royal Navy Fishery Protection Squadron has a constant presence throughout UK waters all year round, with the three River Class Offshore Patrol Vessels spending over 300 days each at sea every year.
Working with the Marine Management Organisation, the patrol duties of the fishery limits surrounding England and Wales are shared between the three ships.
Naval Today Staff, February 28, 2013; Image: Royal Navy