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UK 'has no frigates off Somali coast'
Tuesday, May 08, 2012
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The Royal Navy has no frigates dedicated solely to fighting piracy off the coast of Somalia despite the protection of shipping through the region being named as one of the Prime Minister's foreign policy priorities, it has been confirmed.
Instead, the MoD said that one of two frigates operating east of the Suez Canal could be redirected to take part in 'focused surges' near Somalia if needed. HMS Westminster also 'dips in' when it is available, according to a report in The Guardian newspaper.
The last of the navy's older Type 22 frigates were decommissioned in 2011 and the surface fleet now has just 13 Type 23 frigates and a mix of six Type 42 and Type 45 destroyers.
In recent weeks former First Sea Lord Lord West has said he is "horrified" at the current size of the surface fleet.
Piracy in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean has led to hijackings and ransom payments affecting shipping through the region in recent years. Several national and international naval operations are running concurrently to bring the problem under control, and the UK has committed supply ship RFA Fort Victoria to the NATO effort.
The UK has previously dedicated as many as four frigates to operations off the coast of Somalia.
"The number of successful hijacks and hostages being held is at a three-year low, which is the result of real successes at sea such as the capture and detention of 14 pirates by RFA Fort Victoria in January," an MoD spokesman said.
"A Royal Navy frigate supports NATO counter-piracy operations with focused surges of units and it commands the European Union counter-piracy mission."
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