Survey ship HMS Echo has spent 12 days in Malta on the first stage of her 18-month mission to the Mediterranean and Middle East. The Devonport-based hydrographic vessel will be updating charts used by seafarers the world over, courtesy of her hi-tech sonar suites.
It’s just under a year since the Devonport-based hydrographic vessel last sailed into Grand Harbour. Then she was in the final moments of a 19-month mission to improve seafarers’ knowledge of the Mediterranean, Red Sea and Indian Ocean.
This time round she’s in the first few weeks of an 18-month mission to improve seafarers’ knowledge of the Med, Red Sea, Indian Ocean – plus the Gulf as well.
The ship used its time to get in some training, carry out maintenance, show off their state-of-the-art ocean mapping kit to visitors, explore some of Malta’s outlying islands and generally fly the flag for the RN and UK.
Several members of the ship’s company were invited to the Mediterranean Maritime Search and Rescue Training Centre which provides training and for local pilots and tug masters working at the ports of Valletta and Marsaxlokk.
They use it to practise the tricky act of moving large ships around safely in one of the Med’s busiest harbours.
Some of the Echo sailors seized the chance to ‘drive’ a commercial ferry into Valletta, others had a go at manoeuvre a tug in the confined waters of the harbour.
“Local knowledge of pilots and tug operators throughout the world helps to ensure that our ships and sailors arrive and depart each port safely,”said Sub Lt Dan Wardle, a warfare officer under training on Echo.
“The opportunity to understand this is invaluable in our own training.”
Numerous crew went diving – some taking their first steps, others experienced frogmen – exploring some of the wrecks and caves that litter the coast of Malta, Comino and Gozo.
A ship open to visitors’ event allowed the Maltese public to see the vessel’s fire-fighting equipment, the bridge, a taster of her survey capability and finally a display on the quarterdeck by the ships embarked divers.
Echo has now resumed her survey work. Although the ship herself will be away from Devon for 18 months, her sailors are regularly rotated with a third of the ship’s company at home in the UK on leave or undergoing training courses.
Press Release, June 25, 2013; Image: Royal Navy