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Protector helps Ghanaian authorities hone skills to safeguard shipping in Africa

HMS Protector.Normally found off the Antarctic peninsula, surveying un- or poorly-charted waters and carrying out experiments with polar scientists, once autumn descends on the Southern Hemisphere, the Royal Navy vessel HMS Protector retreats to African waters to promote the UK and improve maritime charts of the waters off the continent.

For three weeks the Devonport-based icebreaker did just that, gathering masses of data about the waters of the Gulf of Guinea and west coast of Africa before sailing into the principal port of Tema - just a few miles from Ghana’s capital Accra - for a seven-day visit.

The stop allowed Protector's sailors and Royal Marines to show off the ship and her hi-tech kit to senior government officials, local youngsters and high-ranking military figures and, unusually, hosted a UK Border Force contingent in the training of Ghanaian maritime security forces, the Royal Navy said.

Piracy has been an issue for some time in the neighbouring Gulf, while drug traffickers have tried to slip narcotics through Tema port.

“The training proved invaluable for the local security forces and helped them to hone their enforcement skills in the ongoing efforts to ensure the safety of commercial shipping moving along the west coast of Africa,” said Lieutenant Commander Matt Lindeyer, HMS Protector's 1st Lieutenant.

Border Force have a team based in Ghana to assist with training enforcement agencies. The arrival of Protector allowed them to use the ship to provide some authentic board and search instruction to members of the Ghanaian Joint Port Control Unit.

So armed Ghanians scrambled up the side of the scientific vessel and began a systematic search of the 292ft ship which was playing the part of a suspected weapons trafficker, skippered by the awkward and belligerent Thomas Bees (normally the XO's assistant aboard Protector).

"To end up in sub-tropical Ghana is unusual for Protector - we're far more used to the cold and desolate environment of Antarctica," said Lindeyer.

"The training proved invaluable for the local security forces and helped them to hone their enforcement skills in the ongoing efforts to ensure the safety of commercial shipping moving along the west coast of Africa,"

Similarly impressed was Ghana's Commissioner of Police who observed proceedings and is keen for the link-up with the UK Border Force detachment to continue.

Boarding complete, Protector's crew opened her gangway to a range of groups - recruits from Ghana's Navy, pupils from a local school and Sea Cadets - to demonstrate the impressive array of capabilities and survey equipment onboard the Royal Navy's only icebreaker.

With all tours complete, military and diplomatic guests from across Ghana were invited to attend lunch on board hosted by Capt Essenhigh and the Defence Adviser, Lt Col Simon Westlake RM. Guests included the Minister for Defence, Dominic Nitiwul, the Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Obed B Akwa as well as the heads of the Army and Navy and the Commandant of the Ghanaian Staff College, who had all trained or studied in the UK.

There was some downtime for the 88 crew, including trips to the nearby capital Accra and two football matches.

The ship is continuing her work off the west African seaboard, this time south of the Equator.

She has been away from the UK for more than 18 months, rotating one third of her crew every few weeks to sustain such a protracted period deployed.

Protector is not due back home until she's completed a third season in the Antarctic next year.
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