SUEZ, Egypt: The HMS Bulwark travelled through the Suez Canal on Sunday after having conducted patrol and security operations in the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf, encouraging maritime security.
The amphibious flagship, the first of its kind employed in the region, was also called to assist the Al-Salam Ferry and the rescue the MV Ocean D, which was stranded off the coast of Somalia. The main purpose of the ship’s presence in the region was to provide security and support to local navies.
Nigel Andel, a lieutenant serving onboard HMS Bulwark, says that “regional security had improved a great deal due to the presence of the Armed Forces. But leaving the area will probably see things return to normal; security only lasts as long as there is a naval presence in the region. More needs to be done to police the Red Sea.
“Piracy, drug smuggling and terrorist activities are largely determined by working closely with fishermen onboard dhow boats for information about smuggling routes. The dhow boats work in clusters, so when an outsider enters that cluster most of the fisherman recognise smugglers or terrorists for what they are and are willing to share information with our marines.
HMS Bulwark also provided assistance to the Iraqi Navy attempting to secure two oil platforms that are responsible for pumping 90 percent of Iraq’s oil against further insurgent attacks.
Captain Clive Johnstone says that “HMS Bulwark also acted as the ‘mother’ ship to the patrol boats of the embryonic Iraqi Navy and the assault boats of the Iraqi Marines, helping to train Iraqi forces to take over the responsibility for oil platform security themselves.
“This time last year, the platforms were attacked and another attack, if successful, would stop Iraq’s revenue in one fell swoop and with it the funds needed to re-build their country – not to mention the catastrophic implications of oil pollution, which would destroy marine life and close down the vital plants in the northern Gulf making fresh water in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
The 380 men and women who man the ship were operating in the Arabian Sea and around the Gulf in unison with the Royal Marines from 45 and 40 Commandos, special boat teams from 539 Assault Squadron and members of 820 (Merlin Helicopter) Squadron, were also involved in security operations in the Gulf.