Survey ship HMS Echo became the first Royal Navy ship to visit the Middle East’s newest port. The vessel tested the facilities in the Omani port of Duqm to confirm that they could meet the needs of Royal Navy ships in the region.
HMS Echo’s forecastle party prepare to bring their ship safely alongside at a Middle East port – an everyday occurrence for Royal Navy vessels deployed east of Suez.
Except that no ship under the White Ensign has come alongside in this harbour before.
This is Duqm in Oman, just a few years ago a fishing village, but now a major new port – developed with a little help from the Royal Navy.
The new harbour lies on Oman’s east coast, roughly half way between the capital Muscat and the southern city of Salalah – both regular ports of call for Royal Navy vessels operating in the Arabian Sea.
In the mid-90s, Duqm was home to a few thousand souls. By 2020 the goal is to turn it into a city of 100,000 inhabitants with an international port to become one of the most important business hubs in the region.
To that end, a huge new dry dock – the second largest in the Middle East – has been built with breakwaters which stretch for four kilometres.
And the approaches to the new port were extensively surveyed by Echo’s sister HMS Enterprise back in 2010 to ensure they could be safely navigated by vessels large or small.
As part of Duqm’s development, Echo was asked to visit the port to review the facilities currently available and assess whether they are suitable for the Royal Navy’s future use.
The Devonport-based survey ship’s crew tested logistics support – drinking water and fuel – to confirm that the quality, pumping rates, and ease of supply were of the standard required.
“The visit to Duqm has allowed HMS Echo to strengthen maritime relationships with Oman, test Duqm’s ability to work with the Royal Navy in future and provide an alternate port of call in a key operational area,” said Cdr Phillip Newell, Echo’s Commanding Officer.
In addition to the successful port visit, sailors enjoyed a rare period alongside when not required to conduct a watch handover – one third of the ship’s company changes on a regular basis so Echo can carry out a much longer deployment than the usual six or seven months for Royal Navy frigates and destroyers in these same waters.
Although Duqm is in the early stages of its development, a day at the local hotel provided unspoilt beaches and sports facilities to enjoy – both of which were lapped up by Echo’s ship’s company.
HMS Echo is mid-way through an 18-month deployment improve charts used by seafarers throughout the world. The ship’s programme has her conducting hydrographic surveying in the Gulf until she returns to the UK later this year.
Royal Navy, March 19, 2014