HMS Portland became the first Royal Navy Ship to visit São Tomé and Príncipe in 29 years when she anchored off the islands for a two day visit.
The last Royal Navy Ship to visit the islands was the survey vessel HMS Herald in 1985. Prior to that, the last recorded visit of a Royal Naval Warship was in 1889.
The islands of São Tomé and Príncipe, are located about 87 miles apart and 150 miles off the northwestern coast of Gabon, Africa.
During the visit, the ship hosted a visit from the Prime Minister of São Tomé, Dr Gabriel Costa and a number of his ministers. The ship also provided training in navigation, mechanical engineering, fire fighting and boarding operations to members of the São Tomé and Príncipe Armed Forces.
The visit of HMS Portland coincided with a Chatham House conference on maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea. The Commanding Officer, Commander Sarah West gave the opening address, whilst several members of the ships company attended the conference.
A large number of personnel enjoyed the opportunity to explore São Tomé, either on foot, cycle or bus. Highlights included a visit to the St Nicoalo Waterfall and the Corallo chocolate factory; one of the Islands major exports is cocoa.
Able Seaman (Warfare Specialist) Holly Tobbell, said of the visit: “This was a great opportunity to explore a beautiful island that very few people have visited. Visits like this are one of the reasons I joined the Royal Navy.”
Press Release, April 7, 2014; Image: Royal Navy