HMS Echo returns from 19-month deployment


The Royal Navy survey ship HMS Echo has returned to her home port of Plymouth after a marathon 19-month deployment.

During the deployment, the ship made 24 stops in 11 nations and 13 different ports including Valletta, Salalah, Limassol, Gibraltar, Bahrain, Mina Rashid, Dubai, Jebel Ali, Mombasa, Mumbai, the Seychelles, Haifa and Tripoli.

The ship has been away for 593 days with 421 actually at sea and has sailed about 74,000 miles (120,000km) – equivalent to 2.5 times around the equator, the UK Ministry of Defence said.

The ship’s survey work of little-charted waters has enabled other ships and task forces to operate safely and confidently. This has included working with Plymouth-based HMS Albion on the largest Royal Naval exercise last year and other units on regular maritime policing patrols in the Middle East.

HMS Echo surveyed over 3,150 square miles (8,160 square kilometres) – equivalent to the surface area of Cyprus; and conducted 181 sea bed samples, the deepest of which was 974 m, and 986 surveys using sound.

Over 45,000 rounds of ammunition was expended, two of which were fired in anger on a real ‘quick-draw’ incident against a suspected Somali pirate vessel. Firing two saluting cannon rounds proved sufficient to deter further night approaches by suspect criminals.

The ship is equipped with a couple of 20 mm cannon, two miniguns as well as four general purpose .50 calibre machineguns. In addition to the ship’s company, Echo also has a small, specialist Royal Navy force protection team.

Whilst on deployment standard emergency drills included 78 fire and flood exercises, 81 man-overboard exercises and 200 sets of breakdown drills. In total 600 litres of paint were used to maintain the ship, exceeding the 400 litres of ice cream eaten.

The ship’s crew played football against eight different nations and lost 10, drew one and won two; the biggest win being 5-2 against the Jebel Ali team and the biggest loss 9-1 against a Maltese side. Other nations played included China, Libya, Oman, India, the United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Malta and the RAF in Cyprus.

The crew is rotated while on deployment, so all have leave periods ashore in between shifts on board, and 29 members of the ship’s company who left Plymouth were on board when the ship returned to her home port on August 16. Three of the crew have got married, and seven babies have been born since the ship has been away.

HMS Echo was build by Appledore Shipbuilders in Devon in 2002. She is designed to conduct survey operations in support of submarines or amphibious operations. She can provide almost real-time tailored environmental information, and also has a secondary role as a Mine Countermeasure Tasking Authority platform, for which she is capable of embarking a dedicated Mine Counter Measures command team.