Royal Navy: Portsmouth ship HMS Mersey to undergo revamp after hectic year of missions and Russian monitoring
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The Royal Navy patrol vessel HMS Mersey will be sent to Falmouth for a period of maintenance. Before entering dry dock, the 20-year-old vessel had been available for duties on four out of every five days in 2023.
Her duties had been varied, including stalking Russian warships which sail across the English Channel and other coasts – including the Smolnyy-class vessel Perekop which was spotted off the coast of Kent this summer. Lieutenant Alex Collins said: “The tasking was constant and due to the size of the crew involved everybody to be called on day or night.
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"Due to the improvised nature of the craft used by the migrants, density of shipping in the Dover Strait and often unfavourable weather conditions, recovery serials were inherently dangerous. Despite the challenges faced many on board found the tasking to be rewarding as, unlike some of our other duties, the human impact of the operation was immediately evident.”
Other missions conducted by HMS Mersey included supporting NATO and Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) allies in the Baltic, exercising with the RAF, and leading the UK’s government efforts to stop illegal people trafficking in the Solent. In total, the ship visited 16 ports in eight countries, spending 3,331 hours under her own steam.
That is the equivalent of travelling for 138 days, more than 19 weeks, and over four months – travelling for 31,590 nautical miles in the process. She also collected a commendation from the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society for ‘meritorious actions in rescuing others’ for humanitarian work.
During her duties, HMS Mersey spent more than 120 days patrolling the Channel, responding to more than 650 incidents alongside the RNLI and Border Force, helping recover people – and also abandoned craft – mostly at night, and mostly in poor conditions. On a few occasions, she was asked to step in for her sister ship HMS Severn by delivering specialist navigational training to officers looking to safely guide capital ships through challenging waters.
She also operated alongside military forces from Sweden, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia – with the crew also training alongside locally-based RAF assets during a month long mission in the Baltic. The ship also found time to visit her namesake river twice – once to celebrate her ties with the Borough of Sefton, the second to provide security at Eurovision.
As part of the revamp, her engines will be overhauled, accommodation will be upgraded, systems will be renewed and the Western Approaches WW2 camouflage/dazzle paint scheme will be added to the hull. Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander James Mitchell said he was extremely delighted by everything the ship and its crew accomplished in 2023.
He said: “Behind all of this is the small ship’s company of men and women who have delivered everything – and then some – of what has been asked of them. We’re looking forward to our next venture in Falmouth and some deep maintenance to breathe a new lease of life into the ship to allow her to get back to the front line within the next few months.”