THE Royal Navy has announced HMS Westminster will sail to the Gulf next week as tensions build with Iran.
The Portsmouth-based frigate, which was called into action off Libya last year, will leave Portsmouth on Monday for a seven-month deployment to the Middle East and Indian Ocean.
Westminster’s deployment was described as ‘pre-planned’ by a navy spokesman and follows the departure of the new £1bn Type 45 destroyer HMS Daring which left Portsmouth for the Gulf last week on her maiden mission.
But it comes at a time of rising tensions with Iran over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear enrichment programme.
The navy said Westminster - a 20-year-old Type 23 frigate - will be acting as part of the Royal Navy’s standing commitment in the Middle East to provide reassurance to the UK’s allies in the region. The ship will be policing busy shipping lanes and carrying out maritime security and counter-piracy patrols.
Westminster’s commanding officer, Captain Nick Hine, said: ‘It takes a tremendous amount of effort to get a complex and sophisticated warship ready for operations and I am extremely proud of my ship’s company for the work they have done in getting us to this point. But operations are what the Royal Navy is all about and we are itching to get going.
‘We sail into a region of heightened tensions and great challenges and we are ready and up for it.’
Last year, HMS Westminster was deployed at short notice to the Mediterranean to assist in evacuating UK nationals from Libya and to conduct operations in support of the United Nations Security Council resolutions against Colonel Gaddafi’s regime.
Many of the ship’s company who will deploy to the Middle East next week took part in the mission off Libya, including operations officer Lieutenant Commander Andy Brown.
He said: ‘We learnt a lot last year on our successful involvement in the Libyan operations and we will carry that experience forward to our next mission.
‘The ship’s company are excited about the deployment ahead and we are all determined to make it a success.’