News

New Navy complex in Bahrain to open in November as future HMS Jufair takes rapid shape
8 February 2017

Sailors and Royal Marines will move into a new permanent home in Bahrain this autumn – the first Royal Navy establishment overseas in nearly half a century.

Workers are on track to complete accommodation, welfare and support facilities for up to 300 military personnel and RN/RFA ships operating in the Gulf by November.

THESE are the bricks and mortar which demonstrate the UK and Royal Navy's long-term commitment to Bahrain and the Middle East.

This is the future HMS Jufair, the first new RN establishment overseas in nearly half a century and the hub of naval operations in the Gulf, Red Sea and Indian Ocean.

From November it will be a living, breathing complex of around half a dozen cream-coloured blocks, plus a huge stores/workshop complex on the waterfront in Bahrain, home on a daily basis to around 200 British military personnel and supporting civilians.

The team behind the complex – it’s the Mina Salman Support Facility until commissioned – stress that Jufair will not be a naval base. There are no dry docks here. It's purely for support: accommodation, admin, workshops, warehouses.

First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones and project manager Cdr Jim Morley admire the view from one of the balconies on the welfare block

And it is not British soil unlike, say, the bases on Cyprus, rather Bahraini land donated by its king (who fondly remembers the old establishment and looks forward to its resurrection) to Britain.

It has its limitations too. HMS Queen Elizabeth will not be able to come alongside at Mina Salman – it's too shallow; she'll have to anchor nearby, like the US super-carriers when they make their rare port visits.

But the facilities will be able to cater for the new carrier – and better support all British ships in theatre.

An artist's impression of the finished Jufair site

This time last year, workers were still clearing away old sheds and warehouses. Today several three-storey cream accommodation blocks have risen on the site, plus a waterfront storage and engineering complex, clustered around a central welfare/recreation/entertainment complex.

From November this will be home to all Bahrain-based British personnel. No more living in hotels and apartments for staff – or even cooking for themselves.

The aim is also to give crews of the four minehunters out here a break from the spartan conditions aboard by moving ashore when undergoing lengthy periods of maintenance (though not during short breaks in harbour for the ships themselves are determined to maintain the strong camaraderie aboard).

The complex is designed to accommodate just over 300 people, or nearly 550 for short periods if the transit block is used and empty bed spaces across the site are occupied. And two VIP suites have been allocated for senior visitors.

Ordinarily most sailors and marines based in Bahrain will enjoy modern rooms with either en suite bathrooms, or sharing heads/showers with a neighbouring cabin, and it's all air conditioned with WiFi throughout.

In the centre, an all ranks galley/dining room, rest areas for junior/senior rates and officers, games room, two gyms, a shop and a 130-seat conference/function room/cinema, a BFBS studio, education centre and a couple of terraces to sit out on.

Finally there'll be an all-weather five-a-side pitch with a shaded area for spectators and a pit for barbecues.

Cdr Morley leads the First Sea Lord, plus Cdre Will Warrender, Commander UKMCC and his deputy Capt Tom Guy around the accommodation complex

And on the operational front, a huge shed is starting to take shape for supplies, spare parts, engineering workshops. It's three times the size of the existing warehouse used by the Forward Support Unit, who provide the day-to-day engineering assistance for RN vessels, and it's right next to the jetty, not half a mile away like the existing structure.

While the store rooms will be used by the Navy predominantly, they could also be used by other government departments – DfID could house humanitarian aid supplies here, for example.

"Getting a first permanent facility since 1971 is a massive step forward," says Cdr Jim Morley, project manager.

“Moving everyone on to one site will make a big difference. It will allow Naval personnel to reinvigorate their sense of esprit de corps.

"This is going to be a major facility in the Middle East. These are the bricks and mortar that show our commitment to this region.”