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Montrose resumes Middle East mission after complex engineering job

HMS Montrose takes on fuel from USNS Patuxent in a double RAS with French frigate Languedoc
22 June 2021
Frigate HMS Montrose takes on fuel in a double replenishment at sea with American supply ship USNS Patuxent and French frigate Languedoc.

The complex manoueuvre shows the Royal Navy’s permanent patrol ship in the Gulf is back in business after her spring overhaul – and that a new dockyard in the region can carry out major work on a hi-tech warship.

Montrose has been operating out of the RN’s Middle East headquarters in Bahrain, trailblazer of a growing programme of ‘forward basing’ which seas UK warships deployed for extended periods in key parts of the world.

Basing a frigate long-term in the Gulf spares the vessels the 6,000-mile journey each way from and back to the UK, making it available more frequently for operations in the Middle East.

It also exposes the vessel to extended periods for the punishing heat and sandy, dusty conditions, and means any maintenance work is carried out in yards in the region.

The port at Duqm proved earlier this year it can support a complex, modern warship having completed Montrose’s winter overhaul.

Duqm benefits from enjoying the newest facilities in the Middle East – it’s a port/town which has been created from nothing over the past decade and is becoming a key hub for Royal Navy operations in the region.

The frigate’s spring revamp following four months of patrols – including three large drugs busts and a major exercise with the Omani Navy – was a far more complex affair.

The maintenance period has seen HMS Montrose return back to full strength as she continues to protect the UK’s interests worldwide

Commander Charles Collins

The biggest challenge was to remove two diesel generators – each providing the ship with 1.3 Megawatts of power – and replace them with new ones… alongside regular maintenance from re-painting the hull, relaying the flight deck and forecastle, checking all the weapons systems and sensors, work on the masts and propellers, and anything else which might need overhauling.

Throw in the added complications of Covid (Oman is on the ‘red’ list for travellers, requiring any contractors from the UK to quarantine at both ends) and Middle East heat (typically at least 31C every day, and over 38C on occasions), and the fact that such a demanding work package hadn’t been carried out at Duqm before, language barriers and some of the work taking place during the holy month of Ramadan, the result was a substantial engineering challenge.

The challenge was accepted – and met – with all the work completed by the ship’s company, local workers and experts from Babcock, responsible for maintaining Type 23 frigates when at home in Devonport.

“A double diesel generator exchange is a complicated task when in UK waters, to achieve this whilst deployed has proven to be a challenging experience,” said marine engineer Warrant Officer Ewan McLaughlin.

“Montrose sailed on time having conducted a successful double change and trials were conducted successfully enabling her to maintain her high levels of readiness which she’s operated at since becoming the first forward-deployed frigate.”

Commander Charles Collins, Commanding Officer of the frigate’s Starboard Crew currently in charge of the ship, added: “The maintenance period has seen HMS Montrose return back to full strength as she continues to protect the UK’s interests worldwide.”

Not content with ‘just’ overhauling Montrose, sailors used the time in Duqm to raise £3,000 for good causes – one third for the Royal Navy Royal Marines Charity, the rest for individual charities the ship backs. Crew offered to lift 60kg of weights for every 10p donated, which means 300,000 10ps were offered… and crew had to lift 18 tonnes… or one and a half London buses.

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