Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) warship HMS Cumberland recently handed over her Gulf responsibilities to HMS Iron Duke. The two ships met in the Gulf of Oman and Iron Duke’s Command Team embarked on to Cumberland for a handover brief and discussions. The two ships conducted a traditional ‘sail-past’ where the ‘Cumberlanders’ waved banners and sprayed fire hoses to wish their reliefs in Iron Duke a successful deployment.

HMS Cumberland had a varied deployment mostly inside the Arabian Gulf, conducting an enormous variety of tasks since assuming responsibility in her national capacity as the UK on-watch frigate in October 2010. The ship has provided maritime security to the Iraqi Al Basra Oil Terminal and supported the Coalition’s efforts in training Iraqi maritime forces to take charge of this vital operation independently later this year.

As part of CMF, Cumberland conducted maritime security patrols throughout the Gulf and its shipping lanes, providing re-assurance to the thousands of mariners in the region whose living depends on the safety of the waters and ensuring the safety of shipping lanes, which are essential to the security of trade and energy routes. Cumberland also acted in support of the French Aircraft Carrier Charles De Gaulle who was deployed in the region providing air support to operations in Afghanistan. Additionally the ship was involved in a number of Wider Regional Engagement visits in the region, including Her Majesty the Queen’s State Visit to Abu Dhabi, and hosting the newly acceded ruler of Ras Al Khaimah in the Northern UAE.

Having handed over to HMS Iron Duke, HMS Cumberland will shortly head towards the UK and is due to decommission soon after arriving back in Devonport. She will, however, continue to participate in CMF operations on her journey home, such as the fight against Somali pirates operating in the busy shipping lanes of the Gulfs of Oman and Aden.

HMS Cumberland’s Commanding Officer, Captain Steve Dainton, said “Cumberland has served her country magnificently throughout her 22 years in service. It is a fitting tribute that her final deployment has been such a success. I am sure Iron Duke and her crew will have a successful and rewarding deployment out here. However, we still have a job to do: Somali pirates are very active and an increasing threat. We will continue to conduct Maritime Security Operations right up to the point where we enter Devonport with our decommissioning pennant flying.”

HMS Iron Duke, on her first deployment to the Gulf, is expecting to conduct similar operations to her predecessor. She sailed from her base port of Portsmouth in early January and passed through the Suez Canal at the end of that month. Since entering the region she has been working with CMF partners to counter piracy and smuggling, as well as providing lifesaving medical assistance to a South Korean fishing vessel. Since commissioning in 1992, Iron Duke has operated predominately in the Caribbean and Atlantic, and in 2009 made the largest drugs seizure in RN history: 5.5 tonnes of pure cocaine with a value of over £240m.

Commander Nick Cooke-Priest, HMS Iron Duke’s Commanding Officer, said: “My ship’s company is prepared and looking forward to this challenging and diverse deployment in the Middle East. Iron Duke’s capabilities are perfectly matched to the CMF tasks and operations we are undertaking and we have benefited from a thorough handover from HMS Cumberland. We are confident of making a tangible and worthy contribution to security and stability in the region.”

CMF is a multi-national naval partnership which exists to promote security, stability and prosperity across 2.5 million square miles of international waters in the Middle East, which encompasses some of the world’s most important shipping lanes.