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● (Front to back) HMS Atherstone, HMS Blyth and HMS Ramsey conduct mine clearance in the Khawr Abd Allah waterway
“The original recce was quite mines are placed in the water charts, we take it as a fact, because
● Lt Campbell, gunnery offi cer, on the bridge wing of HMS Chiddingfold giving the
complex, as we had to search the you can never give a 100 per you risk the safety of the ship on
order to away dive boat as she does her fi rst mine investigation dive in the Khawr
seabeds with lots of wreckage. cent guarantee that there is no that information.
Abd Allah waterway
“But this really proved our ordnance left on the seabed. “If a chart says Mine Danger
purpose, how flexible we are. This “However the amount of kit Area, people would naturally avoid
was not a run-of-the-mill task for that we’ve had allowed us to do a it if they could. It’s not a risk you
a minehunter, we adapted the very thorough job. would want to take.
equipment we have on board – “I can stand up in front of the “However looking at it from the
with the help of Remus. admiral, with my hand on my RFA side, where we’re working
“We were lucky to have the heart, and say this job is done to with the minesweeping squadrons
opportunity.” the best it can be.” here, we get the expert advice
On board the British Once the American admiral from them on what actually is
minehunter HMS Chiddingfold, signs off the work, then the down there.
Lt Allan Nekrews sings the praises chartmakers will take up their “The work they’re doing gives
of the Seafox mine disposal pens. me great confidence that if they
system and the 2193 sonar: “It’s a Strike out Mine Danger Area come and tell me there’s nothing
very advanced and capable system and replace it with Former Mined there, I am 99.9 per cent certain
– worldbeating technology. Area – and commercial shippers that’s going to be clear.
“It’s a huge leap forward, will take note, those wary of the risk “There’s always going to be
and really effective in this of an increased insurance premium that small chance that there’s
environment. It’s outperformed will have greater confidence in something that’s buried so far
our expectations.” sending their valuable leviathans under the sand that it hasn’t been
Chiddingfold is the first Hunt into the NAG to carry away the found, but that’s a very very small
to reap the benefits of Seafox, precious black gold. chance.
which is in the process of being And what next for the British “But when that comes on to
rolled out to the rest of the MCM minehunters as their traditional the chart that it’s a Former Mined
fleet. quarry of the MDA are struck off Area, it’s a huge weight off any
As a RCMDS (remote controlled the charts of the Northern Gulf? master’s mind.”
mine disposal system), Seafox is a Cdr Hunkin states: “Back into
somewhat smaller beast than the their tasking in the region. We
bulky yellow submarines that have work very closely, hand in glove,
been a long familiar sight on the with our American colleagues.
point echoed by the
Navy’s Cdre Duncan
Potts, coalition command-
back of Naval MCMVs. “So we go back into our routine
er of Combined Task Force
The svelte orange cigar is linked activity of route maintenance and
158, charged with safeguard-
by a fibreoptic cable back to the conducting exercises.”
ing Iraq’s oil platforms: “One
ops room inside its mother-ship For the last stages of Operation
of the key things that I wanted
from where it is controlled by a Ardent Remedy, RFA Diligence
to achieve up here – and this is
console akin to an old-fashioned has hosted the MCM battlestaff,
a progressive campaign we’re
arcade machine, but with a cheerfully referred to onboard
working on – is to establish what
grainier black and white screen as “the people with disruptive
I call the normalisation of mari-
and less intuitive controls. patterns on their uniform”.
time activity.
Since arriving in the Gulf in
“So therefore all mariners
late February, Chiddingfold has
involved in the area, whether they
uncovered some 363 contacts
be fishermen through to the deep-
scattered on the seabed, and dived
he professional mariners of
the Royal Fleet Auxiliary
are perhaps the closest to draught tanker operators who
on 30 of them.
understanding the business that come up to take the oil away from
drives the commercial tankers Iraq, can operate in those waters
omewhat surprising to a around the globe. without any fear.
British mind that knows Capt Tony McNally RFA, “I see the Al Faw peninsula, and
the monthly regularity with commanding officer of RFA in particular the KAA waterway,
which the ordnance of World Diligence, said: “We do view as the ‘umbilical cord’ for
Wars 1 and 2 are dragged up things slightly differently. We can the future of Iraq, because
from the Channel, this search actually see the benefits because the main port for bringing any
has uncovered not a single we can see the reasons behind the form of bulk cargo is there, and
mine. marine insurance. the territorial waters are where
“So far with the coverage we’ve “If you are asking a company the vast majority of Iraqi oil is
given, we’ve found around 2,000 to move a multi-million pound exported – roughly in the order
sonar contacts, but thus far we tanker with a multi-multi-million of 85 per cent of the country’s
haven’t found any ordnance at pound cargo through a mine GDP is generated through their
all within those areas,” said Cdr danger area, obviously the people territorial waters.”
Hunkin.“It’s mostly been debris who have to insure that risk want Lt Chris Flaherty on HMS Blyth
from merchant ships and general higher premiums. summed up the feelings of many
debris.” “If we can prove that there is of the British matelots labouring
There is a note of caution, no risk in this area, the insurance off some foreign shore: “I’ve got
that any mariner who knows the premiums come down and that a real sense of accomplishment
British coast will not be surprised attracts more trade. from being out here.
to hear, “At the end of the day – “Most mariners are quite simple “I’m going to look at the charts
with the vagaries of minewarfare people. We do believe what we see, once they’ve been redrawn in years
and operating in the sea – when especially on a chart. When we use to come, and think ‘I did that’.”
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