HMS St Albans was recently called upon to assist a stricken Dhow whilst conducting maritime security operations in the Gulf of Oman.

HMS St Albans has been working in the Gulf with the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), and was on a routine patrol for the UK when she was contacted by an Omani Air Force surveillance aircraft. The aircraft reported seeing a dhow drifting at the sea with its engine hatch open. Suspecting that the dhow might have engine trouble, St Albans made best speed to her location in order to offer assistance.

St Albans’ sea boats attending the stricken dhow

On reaching the area, St Albans’ crew discovered that the Pakistani dhow had suffered engine failure and had consequently taken on a significant amount of seawater. The ship immediately sent a team of marine engineers on board with portable pumps and tools to help the two Pakistani crew members stabilise the situation as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, after several hours of labour, it became apparent that the dhow’s engine was beyond repair. St Albans’ crew also found a number of holes in the hull of the dhow, and discovered that the bilge pump was unusable as it was powered by the engine. This meant that it was not possible to tow the dhow to safety without it sinking. Having rescued the two Pakistani sailors, it became clear that the dhow was indeed sinking and beyond salvation. The crew of HMS St Albans were forced to scuttle it in order to prevent it from becoming a danger to other ships in the area.

Petty Officer Bethany Burton was part of the Marine Engineering Team sent across to assist the stricken dhow. She said: “Being the Diesel Section Head on board, it was really good to utilise my diesel engine skills and knowledge that the RN taught me, and to be able to help out with the team and ensure a safe recovery of the two stranded sailors”.

Another member of the Marine Engineering team, Petty Officer Ryan Gooderham, added: “‘As an engineer our job is usually to keep ships afloat, but in this case we were asked to sink it as it was a navigational danger. This was hard work in cramped conditions and needed to be done quickly, and we were glad it was successful”.

Working closely with Pakistani led Combined Task Force 151 (CTF151) HMS St Albans transferred the two Pakistani sailors to Pakistan Maritime Security Authority (PMSA) who repatriated them back to their home nation. The ‘Saint’, as HMS St Albans is affectionately known, then returned to the seas close to Oman to take part in a multinational maritime exercise where she will be training alongside units of different nations. This will reaffirm the partnerships that allow our ships to operate effectively in a multinational environment.

Commander Richard Hutchings, Commanding Officer of HMS St Albans said: “After many years of working in the Middle East, the Royal Navy has strong links with regional nations. This event shows how committed these nations are to protecting the maritime community. Omani Forces were able to contact a RN warship, which was immediately diverted to save two lives, and then worked with Pakistani Forces to get the sailors home safely. However, I am particularly proud of the seamanship and engineering skills shown by my ship’s company. Two lives would have been lost without their efforts”.

Following the event, Commodore Zahid Ilyas, the Pakistani Commander of CTF151, said: “We received notification from HMS St Albans that they had been called upon to assist a sinking dhow. Having confirmed the identity of the sailors, we were able to send Fast Response Boats from the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency to meet HMS St Albans and recover the sailors. We are very grateful to the Royal Navy for assisting the vessel and for rescuing two Pakistani crew members. Our thanks extend especially to the crew of HMS St Albans who responded in a quick and professional manner. ”