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Defence and Security Strategy

A high-tech Royal Navy survey ship has completed a successful mission to make Libyan waters safer for civilian vessels and pass on specialist knowledge to the Libyan Navy, Vigilance can confirm.

HMS Echo used state-of-the-art sonar equipment to map the unseen wrecks, reefs and rocks of the Libyan coast and make navigation less hazardous. Significant discoveries included a number of uncharted wrecks in shipping lanes which could have posed a danger to shipping. The operation was the ship’s second visit to Libya following a successful trip in 2012.

In total the crew surveyed 46.8 square nautical miles, equal to just under 20,000 football pitches. All of the survey data will be shared with the Libyan Hydrographic Office in order for the area’s charts to be updated.

In addition, specialists from the ship passed their expertise onto members of the Libyan Navy who spent several days onboard. The sailors learned the modern surveying methods including side scan sonar, satellite positioning and electronic data collection to allow the Libyan Navy to take responsibility for mapping their waters in the future.

Commander Matt Syrett, the Commanding Officer of HMS Echo said: “I am delighted that HMS Echo has been able to build upon the relationship started when we visited last year and being part of theUK Government’s contribution towards a stable future for Libya is something that my entire team can be proud of. The Libyan Sailors that we have worked alongside have shown themselves to be professional and capable throughout and I am confident that the work we have undertaken and the training provided will make a real impact on the redevelopment of these ports for the Libyan people. ”

Lieutenant Hassan Oun from the Libyan Navy said: “Our brief time on HMS Echo afforded myself and my men a useful introduction into hydrographic surveying operations and the continued cooperation between our navies will enhance our ability to conduct our own surveys in the future.”

The visit of HMS Echo is the latest demonstration of UK support for Libyan authorities since the UK supported the Libyan people in the revolution in 2011. At their summit in June the G8 announced a multinational effort to train 7,000 members of the Libyan Armed Forces in basic infantry skills in order to help with the Government’s reintegration programme. During its visit HMS Echo served as the venue for high-level talks between Chief of the General Staff General Sir Peter Wall and counterparts in the Libyan Armed Forces on 4 July to discuss the UK’s pledge to train troops as part of this work.

Minister for International Security Strategy Dr Andrew Murrison, who visited Libya onboard HMS Kent in April 2013, said: “This Government and Britain’s Armed Forces have repeatedly demonstrated our support to a free Libya and we will continue to do everything we can to improve the security of the country. Our intervention in 2011 was the start of our partnership with the people of Libya and we will continue to stand by them.”

At the G8 Summit on 18 June Prime Minister David Cameron pledged the UK’s support to training members of the Libyan Armed Forces. He said: "I'm proud of the role Britain played in getting rid of Colonel Gaddafi in Libya. But we need to help that country secure its future. So some G8 countries today have offered to train more than 7,000 troops to help Prime Minister Zidan disarm and integrate the militias and take the fight to the extremists. More contributions will follow from others. The Libyan government will pay for this, there will be no cost to the UK taxpayer."

HMS Echo, like the other survey vessels in the Royal Navy, is operated using a 3 watch manning system. She has a Ship’s Company of 81, split into three watches, two of which will be on board at any time. This unique manning allows the ship to remain on operational tasking 330 days a year.

Echo was launched at Appledore in Devon in 2002, and was designed to carry out a wide range of survey work including support to submarine and amphibious operations through the collection of oceanographic and bathymetric (analysis of the ocean, its salinity and sound profile) data.

Her survey motor boat, Sapphire, is capable of operating independently, supporting a small group of surveyors who can live and work ashore to carry out surveys.

Echo is based in Devonport and was the first Royal Navy ship to use azimuth thrusters, where the propellers are part of a swivelling pod, allowing for precise manoeuvring.

Capable of collecting an array of military hydrographic and oceanographic data due to her multi-role capability Echo is also equipped to support mine warfare and amphibious operations.

To ensure she can operate in any environment she possesses an impressive array of weapons for force protection and is able to carry a small detachment of Royal Marines.