SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): Two warships - HMS Tamar and HMS Spey - have been deployed in Britain's first permanent naval presence in the Indo-Pacific region in five decades, and will focus on furthering the UK's trade, diplomatic and humanitarian interests.
HMS Tamar is docked in Singapore for maintenance, having just returned from Exercise Bersama Shield, which involved Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom.
Both the Tamar and Spey will be deployed in the Indo-Pacific for at least the next five years, making it the UK's first permanent naval presence in the region since the British withdrew from east of the Suez Canal in 1971, Tamar's executive officer Lieutenant Commander Matt Millyard told The Straits Times during a tour of the ship on Tuesday (April 5).
The 90-metre long patrol vessel also has a role in promoting the post-Brexit global Britain and developing relationships, he added.
He said: "We're not a carrier, we're not a massive warship or an intimidating force, we're here as a force for good and a force for peace."
In 2021, five years after the UK voted to leave the European Union, the British government announced a new policy called the "Indo-Pacific tilt" - under which Britain sought to deepen engagement in the region.
The patrol ship's primary role is maritime security, Lt Cdr Millyard said. Before coming to Singapore, it had been supporting the United Nations Security Council resolution for an embargo against North Korea by preventing the illegal import of refined petroleum into the country.
The ship, which is also in the region for humanitarian reasons, will be outfitted with disaster relief supplies. It has its own 16m crane, which allows it to load and unload cargo by itself when port facilities are not available, Lt Cdr Millyard added.
While HMS Tamar has not needed to use these capabilities so far, its sister ship HMS Spey supported the island nation of Tonga with water, medical and sanitary supplies after a tsunami in January.
While not as heavily armed as larger warships, HMS Tamar is still outfitted with weapons such as a 30mm cannon and will be participating in exercises with various countries in the Pacific, said Lt Cdr Millyard.
It has a crew of 75, with around 50 staffing the ship at any one time. It functions on a three-watch system, meaning that two watches are on the ship at a time while a third is on leave.
Both the Tamar and Spey are not based in any specific port but will instead be out at sea for up to six weeks at a time and docking in various ports in the Pacific for maintenance in between.
HMS Tamar is the first UK vessel since the end of World War II to be painted in the iconic dazzle camouflage, a paint scheme that breaks up its silhouette using different shades of grey applied at odd angles widely used in the first and second world wars.