Work has begun to create a new £6m headquarters to serve as the hub of the Royal Navy’s most important theatre – the Middle East.
Armed Forces Minister Mark Francois MP broke ground with a golden shovel at the site of the new UK Maritime Component Command (UKMCC) complex in Bahrain.
Nowhere else outside UK home waters is there such a concentration of the Royal Navy around the clock 365 days a year.
There are usually upwards of a dozen ships and units deployed in the region, well over 1,200 men and women and now work has begun to expand their base on the island with work due to finish in mid 2015.
Mr Francois said:
“Close cooperation is integral to our relationship with Bahrain and I was honoured to attend the ground-breaking ceremony of the new UK Maritime Component Command headquarters within the Salman Naval Base.
“This very visible commitment by the UK and Bahrain underlines the importance we both place upon our friendship and cooperation.
“Bahraini, British, US and other allies work in concert in Bahrain having established a model of cooperation that is the envy of the world.
“British commitment to, and cooperation with, Bahrain will celebrate its 200th year in 2016; throughout my visit I have been keen to underline the UK’s enduring commitment to Bahrain and the region.”
There are four minehunters permanently based in the port, plus one Royal Fleet Auxiliary mother ship, while generally two frigates or destroyers are in the Gulf and Indian Ocean on a mix of maritime security duties, clamping down on piracy, smuggling, people trafficking and terrorism.
In addition, RFA tankers and supply ships support the wider international security mission in the region.
The Royal Navy has ties with the small kingdom going back 200 years and has maintained a permanent presence in the Gulf for more than 30 years. But the Senior Service’s role in the region has mushroomed since 2001, when it established its first headquarters in Bahrain.
Then the effort was supported by a staff of eight. Now UKMCC numbers more than 80 men and women – and they have outgrown their existing building.
Their new headquarters is one of two buildings being erected at Mina Salman Naval Base as part of the £5.8m investment. The second will house the Forward Support Unit, which looks after all the needs of Royal Navy ships based or visiting Bahrain.
Commodore Keith Blount, UKMCC’s Commander, said:
“This new UK Maritime Component Command headquarters and support facility underscores the UK’s continuing and enduring commitment to Bahrain and the wider region.
“I am very excited by this development and this purpose-built site means we will be better equipped to deliver the operational support required to our ships at sea.
“It will be better for the Royal Navy and better for our people.”
Press Release, April 29, 2014; Image: Royal Navy