After an extremely busy seven month deployment in the Eastern Mediterranean and Gulf region, Naval ship HMS Montrose has set sail to come home after handing over duties to HMS Diamond in the mission to remove chemicals from Syria.
Since arriving in the eastern Mediterranean in January, HMS Montrose has been working alongside warships from Denmark and Norway carrying out maritime escort and protection duties for 2 merchant vessels that are transporting chemicals from Syria for onward destruction.
Known as Operation Recsyr, it is a mission that has also seen co-ordination with Russian and Chinese warships which are operating in the area.
Talking about the role that HMS Montrose has had over the past month, commanding officer Commander James Parkin said: The task group as a whole operates seamlessly together.
“Having been retasked from operations in the Gulf, my ship’s company and I were all honoured to be part of an operation of such global significance.”
Against a backdrop of civil war, and with the Syrian regime responsible for organising the ground movement of the so-called ‘precursor chemicals’, HMS Montrose, together with the multinational task group, has been providing close protection to the merchant vessels Taiko and Ark Futura carrying the cargo in the eastern Mediterranean.
While the Danish flagship and Norwegian warship have accompanied the merchant ships into the port of Latakia, HMS Montrose has remained outside Syrian waters using her sensors to monitor the wider situation around the port, before rejoining the quartet when they leave harbour.
To date, 3 cargo-loads of chemicals have been safely escorted out of Syria for destruction as part of a United Nations Security Council resolution to dispose of the chemical weapons precursors.
Once the declared Syrian chemical stockpile has been removed from the country, the warships will escort the civilian vessels to Gioia Tauro, near the south-western tip of Italy, where those chemicals of greatest concern will be transferred to a US government vessel for subsequent destruction.
Speaking after the handover of duties from HMS Montrose to HMS Diamond, Mark Francois, Minister of State for the Armed Forces, said: “I am proud of the role that the UK is playing in the international mission to remove chemical precursors from Syria.
“I would like to thank the crew of HMS Montrose who have ably assisted our Danish and Norwegian partners while escorting the chemicals in international waters.”
Due back in British waters in mid-March, HMS Montrose is now heading back to the UK where the crew will take some well-earned leave with their families.
Welcoming the task ahead, the commanding officer of HMS Diamond, Commander Andrew Ingham, said: “Following many months of training and material preparations, everyone in HMS Diamond is excited to be starting the operational part of our deployment.
“We are all very aware of the international importance of Op Recsyr, and we look forward to building on the sterling work done by HMS Montrose in ensuring that the mission to remove chemicals from Syria is completed.”
Press Release, February 27, 2014, 2014; Image: Royal Navy