THE Royal Navy has been giving away food and water in a bid to win hearts and minds in the battle against smuggling in the Arabian Gulf.
The coastal region at the crossroads between Europe, Africa and Asia is the single largest source of crude oil in the world with hundreds of supertankers passing through every day.
Portsmouth-based warship HMS St Albans is there on a mission to prevent criminal activity, detecting and deterring smugglers as well as stopping the flow of money to pirates and terrorists.
Sailors and marines serving aboard the frigate have been patrolling fishing dhows to speak to fishermen to find out vital information in return for food, water and medical treatment from the ship’s doctor.
Royal Marines Commando Lance Corporal Ben Glover said: ‘We normally visit over 10 fishing dhows in a day and the people we meet onboard are always glad to see us. It’s amazing to watch the effect that giving them just a simple ration pack can make.
‘These guys are obviously used to living on the bare essentials, so a bit of cold water and food goes a long way. The fishermen are normally happy to chat with us and every little thing we learn about their way of life can potentially help us beat the smugglers.’
On top of the personal contact with local fishermen, the ship has made diplomatic visits to the centres of political and economic power in the area such as Bahrain, the UAE and Kuwait.
St Albans’ operations officer Lieutenant Commander Will King said: ‘Everybody onboard understands the important work that we are doing in the Gulf, helping to secure these important trading routes is vital to both the UK and the rest of the world.’
While serving in the Middle East, the ship is on a constant state of high readiness to react to any event she is required to intervene in – such as the rescue of 13 sailors from a sinking tanker in the Gulf of Oman in June, as previously reported.
St Albans left Portsmouth last June and is due to continue her duties out in the Middle East before returning home in December.