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Echo joins the fight against piracy in the Seychelles
14 February 2012

Survey ship HMS Echo sailed into the Seychelles to work with local forces in the continuous fight against piracy.

Echo, which has been away from home for 13 months, worked with the Seychelles Coastguard and took members of the British High Commission to sea in a break from her normal hydrographic work.

WHAT a beautiful picture-postcard scene from an island paradise.

Apologies for the huge blob of battleship grey in the foreground…

The ‘blob’ is Her Majesty’s Ship Echo. The island is Mahé, largest in the Seychelles archipelago.

Much as Mahé is an idyll, beloved by holidaymakers, honeymooners et al, the survey ship wasn’t in town to soak up the Indian Ocean sun – but to work with the Seychellois Coastguard in the on-going fight against piracy.

The latter was recently evidenced by the islands agreeing to prosecute suspected pirates captured by sailors and Royal Marines in a task force aboard RFA Fort Victoria.

One of Echo's gunners mans the 20mm cannon during a force protection demonstration

Echo has devoted most of her 13 months away from home in Devonport improving our understanding of the waters and shores east of Suez by updating charts of the region’s seas.

Alongside Port Victoria in Mahé, her ship’s company enjoyed a rare spot of respite – and more importantly interaction with locals.

The survey ship hosted nine personnel – a mixture of officers and ratings from the Seychellois Coastguard Forces; they spent the day learning how to fight fires alongside the hydrographic vessel’s sailors, led by Echo’s damage control expert PO ‘Shady’ Lane.

Echo's sea boat crew demonstrate the agility and speed of a Pacific 22 RIB to the Seychelles forces

PO Lane and his emergency party demonstrated the importance of each of the fire fighting positions, from the initial attack party to a re-entry team. 

The Seychellois force got fully involved in the training, getting hands-on experience with the RN’s methods of fire-fighting and equipment.  A number of the coastguards also put to sea in Echo’s Pacific 22 sea boat, to experience the thrill of high-speed (upwards of 35kt) sea boat operations.

Echo’s Commanding Officer Cdr Mike O’Sullivan, said: “It was great to take the opportunity to renew Echo’s close relationship with the Seychellois Coastguard. A greater understanding between the Royal Navy and the Coastguard teams helps us to work closely together in ensuring the safety of navigation for all mariners sailing the Indian Ocean.”

Echo also embarked a number of sea riders for the day – although in this case they were not from the Navy’s training teams, but the British High Commission in the Seychelles.

This provided an opportunity to allow those who prosecute pirates to get a taste of what life is like on the ocean waves, demonstrating a number of dramatic scenarios commencing in emergency calls to hands, leading to a fire on the ship, which was successfully extinguished.

One visitor from the High Commission commented:  “It is quite amazing how efficiently and successfully these incredibly dangerous incidents are dealt with. For these people to go into what could be potentially life threaten situations – without even the blink of an eye – must be a testament to the training they receive.” 

The embarked members of the High Commission also talked informally to the ship’s company about how they made every effort to bring suspected pirates to face justice  – and have seen to date – a 100 per cent conviction rate.