HMS Westminster in position off Libya

Submarine leaves Portsmouth after brief visit

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ROYAL Navy ships off Libya are keeping Colonel Gaddafi’s gunboats holed up in port.

Until the UN Resolution was enforced, the dictator’s ships had been used to bombard targets in rebel-held locations ashore.

HMS Westminster

HMS Westminster

But since Portsmouth-based frigate HMS Westminster and Type 22 HMS Cumberland began a blockade with coalition naval forces on Friday, Gaddafi’s ships have shown ‘a very marked reluctance’ to leave their bases, Whitehall said.

Captain Karl Evans, who is operations officer on the Naval Staff, said: ‘We had seen Libyan surface ships used to shell shore positions. That’s now stopped. Our ships and their capabilities may well be a factor in why that’s stopped.’

Both frigates remain on a war footing off the Libyan coast.

As well as ensuring arms do not slip through the naval cordon drawn across the Gulf of Sirte, both ships are using their surveillance suites to monitor activities along the Libyan coast, providing vital intelligence for the mission to enforce the no-fly zone.

Prime Minister David Cameron has revealed nuclear submarine HMS Triumph fired the first shots of Britain’s involvement in the operation, launching cruise missile strikes from the Mediterranean at 7pm on Saturday.

That was followed by strikes by the Royal Air Force against military targets in Libya and then a second night of strikes, including further cruise missile launches by HMS Triumph.