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Royal Navy Minehunters Sold to Romania

HMS Pembroke [Crown Copyright: POA(Phot) Tam McDonald]

Minehunters which served the Royal Navy around the globe will have a new lease of life with Romania, one of the UK’s NATO allies.

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Press Release, Bristol, 28 September 2023: Two retired Royal Navy minehunters sold to Romania.

Minehunters which served the Royal Navy around the globe will have a new lease of life with one of the UK’s NATO allies. HMS Blyth and HMS Pembroke, which patrolled the seas as Sandown Class Mine Counter Measure Vessels (MCMVs), have been sold to Romania. The former ship was decommissioned in 2021 while the latter will be retired early next year.

Acting on behalf of Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, the pair were sold by the Defence Equipment Sales Authority (DESA), which disposes of vehicles, vessels and equipment no longer needed by UK Armed Forces. On behalf of Navy Command, the Ships Support team at Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) have been working with Babcock to refurbish the minehunters before they are transferred to their new owners. The Royal Navy will provide individual operator and maintainer training via Navy International Defence Training (IDT), and collective training via Fleet Operational Sea Training (FOST).

James Cartlidge, Minister for Defence Procurement, said: “Given the current geo-political climate, the UK’s relationship with its NATO allies is more important than ever.

“This agreement with Romania is the latest strategic relationship we have strengthened, providing their navy with a new capability and, crucially, making a real contribution to security in the Black Sea region.”

The former Sandown Class ships are 52.5m long, weigh 485 tonnes and have a range of more than 2,500 nautical miles without refuelling. They use high-definition sonar to scour the world’s seabeds for mines and lost explosives, which are then safely destroyed by the ship’s clearance diving teams or the ATLAS Seafox mine disposal system. They also worked closely with regional and coalition partners to maintain the security of the sea lanes of communications, crucial to international shipping and the global economy.

HMS Blyth was one of four Navy mine-hunters permanently stationed in the Gulf. She was also deployed in the Baltic Sea and for domestic tasking. One of HMS Pembroke’s most notable successes was the discovery and safe disposal of a Russian mine from the First World War. A remote underwater vehicle was deployed to identify the device off the coast of Lithuania before it was safely disposed of.

DESA Head Richard Whalley said: “Our dedicated sales team continue to find new homes for the retired Royal Navy Sandown Class ships and I am pleased to see HMS Blyth and HMS Pembroke preparing for their new roles.

“This agreement highlights the strong relationship we have with our allies and feeds into NATO’s collective mission of supporting global security.”

HMS Blyth [Crown Copyright: POA(Phot) Tam McDonald]

The outgoing Sandown Class will be replaced by autonomous mine-hunting systems operating from RFA Stirling Castle, the new ‘mothership’ bought by DE&S as a commercial vessel from Norwegian company Island Offshore before being modified for her future role.

HMS Blyth was transferred to the Romanian Navy this month, while HMS Pembroke will be transferred next spring. In the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, drifting mines pose a direct threat to Black Sea states, and sea lines of communication. This sale will enable Romania, a key NATO ally, to have a direct, positive contribution to the maritime security of the region. It follows other minehunter sales made by DESA, including HMS Quorn, Dulverton and Cottesmore to Lithuania, HMS Sandown, Inverness and Bridport to Estonia, HMS Berkeley and Bicester to Greece, and HMS Atherstone to maritime contractor Harland & Wolff.

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