SUPERSTITIONS were set aside as the Royal Navy welcomed its newest warship to the fleet today – on Friday the 13th.
HMS Forth was commissioned into the Senior Service at a ceremony attended by top brass in Portsmouth Naval Base.
She is the first of five souped-up offshore patrol vessels designed for counter-piracy, anti-smuggling, fishery protection, border patrol and counter-terrorism duties.
Classified as batch two River-class offshore patrol vessels (OPV), HMS Forth and her sisters – HMS Trent, Medway, Tamar and Spey – are an upgrade on HMS Tyne, Severn, Mersey and Clyde.
They will be the Royal Navy’s eyes and ears around the UK, helping to safeguard fishing stocks, guard the Falkland Islands as well as deploying on missions to the Mediterranean and the Caribbean.
Forth’s first captain, Commander Bob Laverty, said he was ‘immensely proud’ to welcome her into naval service.
He said: ‘The work that the ship’s company have put in to get it to this stage, on top of the efforts by BAE Systems, has been fantastic. When we take her out she will be an incredibly useful, versatile and capable warship.’
Speaking about whether he was nervous commissioning Forth on Friday the 13th, he added: ‘You can’t ignore the date but we thought long and hard about it and decided we would make our own luck.’
HMS Forth is bigger and faster than the earlier batch of OPVs. She has a 30mm cannon, a flight deck capable of receiving a Merlin helicopter and a larger crew.
She also has a 50-man mess able to embark a team of Royal Marines, special forces or a large group of trainee sailors.
AB Ross Bullie, 25, is part of the crew. He said: ‘It’s a lot bigger than what we’re used to. It’s a great ship.’
Cdr Sarah Oakley heads up the navy’s fishery protection squadron. She said: ‘These new ships will take the weight off the frigates and destroyers.
‘We have got a better radar system and a bigger gun. We’ve even got a small operations room which we didn’t have in the batch one OPVs.
‘We’re just desperate to get her out to see and see what she can do.’
Forth is due to be operational by September. Medway, Trent and Tamar will enter service in 2019. Spey will join in 2020.