Her Majesty’s Ambassador Nicholas Cannon has visited HMS Bulwark as the Fleet Flagship held an evacuation exercise with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) near Vlore in Albania. Mr Cannon took the opportunity to visit Bulwark to gain a greater appreciation of the utility and capacity which a Royal Navy ship is able to provide to contingency humanitarian operations, delivered in partnership with the FCO.
Captain Andrew Burns, Commanding Officer HMS Bulwark, greeted Mr Cannon in the ship’s Vehicle Dock where, as part of the exercise, British nationals entitled to be evacuated were met by the ship’s Logistics and Medical teams.
HMS Bulwark is designed to carry a large number of Royal Marines and command operations and has the capacity to embark up to 5000 entitled personnel for short periods.
In 2006 the ship moved 2900 personnel from Lebanon to Cyprus, named Operation Highbrow.
Captain Andrew Burns, Commanding Officer HMS Bulwark, said:
“It was a privilege to show Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Albania around the Fleet Flagship this morning.
“It was an opportunity to show him the significant capacity of the ship for a non-combatant evacuation operation and the range of facilities available to provide evacuees with safe passage to their destination.
“Ultimately it is my ship’s company who make this happen and once again they have demonstrated their professionalism and readiness to do so if called upon.”
HMS Bulwark is Flagship to the Royal Navy’s Response Force Task Group (RFTG) which is commanded by Commodore Paddy McAlpine.
The RFTG is the United Kingdom’s high readiness maritime force, made up of ships, submarines, aircraft and a landing force of Royal Marines, at five days notice to act in response to any contingency tasking including humanitarian disaster relief or international military intervention.
The ships, and the Lead Commando Group of 42 Commando Royal Marines, are currently on a four-month deployment of the Mediterranean and Gulf regions under the annual exercise Cougar 13.
As well as HMS Westminster there are three other Royal Navy ships – HMS Bulwark, HMS Illustrious and HMS Montrose taking part as supported by five Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels.
While in Albania, the ships and LCG have been taking part in Exercise Albanian Lion.
The exercise has seen the Lead Commando Group, formed around 42 Commando Royal Marines, hold a theatre entry, two simultaneous island assaults, a night time cliff raid, establishment of an aviation Forward Operating Base (FOB) as well as holding an evacuation exercise in two separate locations, all within five days.
Press Release, September 09, 2013; Image: Royal Navy