HMS Shoreham has left her home port of Faslane for the final time to conduct a brief tour of the UK before she is formally decommissioned in Rosyth.
HMS Shoreham was launched at the (now defunct) Vosper Thornycroft yard in Southampton in 2001. During her 20 years in service, she sailed 120,000 nautical miles and visited more than 30 ports at home and abroad. She has alternated her time between training and operations in home or northern European waters and three 3-year spells forward-deployed in Bahrain. She returned from her final Gulf deployment in October last year.
The RN is quickly phasing out its crewed minehunters starting with the remaining Sandown class vessels. HMS Blyth and HMS Ramsey decommissioned in August last year. Work to refurbish these vessels, ahead of transferring them to the Ukrainian Navy had begun in Rosyth, but their future is uncertain for obvious reasons.
The crewed minehunting capability of the MCMVs is going to be replaced by autonomous systems. The RN is a world leader in this area of innovation and there is great confidence that the human can be fully removed from the minefield. The new technology for mine disposal works well and in some cases is proving to be faster, safer and more efficient than existing methods. However, there is considerable concern about the loss of the conventional MCMVs which carry out many tasks besides minehunting. Many believe that the effort to save costs is driving this transformation too quickly before the technology is fully matured and proven in the operational environment.
The GRP-hulled Hunt and Sandown class minehunters which once totalled 24 ships, have been an outstanding success and many have been sold overseas to smaller navies. With HMS Shoreham gone, there will be 10 MCMVs left in service. The MoD has yet to dispose of GRP vessels that it has been unable to sell. HMS Quorn was decommissioned mid-refit for cost-saving reasons in 2017 but was reportedly sold to Lithuania in 2020. She remains, with her similarly retired sister HMS Atherstone, in Portsmouth with no sign of the transfer going ahead. HMS Walney was axed in 2010 but her hulk has been laid up in Portsmouth since while the MoD contemplates how to recycle its waste plastic.
The public will have their last chance to see HMS Shoreham when she is open to visitors in her namesake town, Sunday 15th May 1030-1430. FREE tickets must be booked in advance here.