AFTER more than a year away at sea, Royal Navy patrol ship HMS Mersey will finally be returning home to Portsmouth tomorrow.
The River-class vessel left the city in January 2016, heading for the Caribbean before travelling east to the Mediterranean and on to the Aegean.
Since deploying, she has sailed 48,000 miles, visiting 32 ports in 19 countries and used a whopping two million litres of diesel – enough to drive the average family car 647 times around the world, or to the moon and back 30 times.
She also played a key role in a £12m cocaine bust off the coast of Nicaragua in April and supported the Nato-led mission to combat the migrant crisis.
Mersey’s commanding officer Lieutenant Commander George Storton said: ‘HMS Mersey has delivered an epic 13-month deployment spanning from the Caribbean to Turkey driven by the spirit, commitment and courage of the ship’s company.
‘With a crew of less than 50 on board at any one time everybody is involved in every task, from hosting presidents to working with Nato allies and developing lifesaving procedures in the Mediterranean.
The team have done an amazing job and this deployment really highlights the capability and flexibility of the offshore patrol vesselLieutenant Commander George Storton, HMS Mersey’s commanding officer
‘The team have done an amazing job and this deployment really highlights the capability and flexibility of the offshore patrol vessel.’
Mersey is expected to arrive at Portsmouth Naval Base tomorrow morning, passing the Round Tower at about 9.40am.
As well as providing counter narcotic patrols in the Caribbean, Mersey was also able to visit many of the region’s smaller islands and ports – normally inaccessible by larger Royal Navy warships.
The ship welcomed thousands of visitors on board, including presidents, ambassadors and military top brass, as well as hundreds of excited schoolchildren.
While the ship has been at sea for 13 months, the crew have not – they work a routine of two months on shift and one month off.
Once home in Portsmouth, Mersey and her crew will return to its fishery protection duties.