The first of two new £5m patrol boats charged with guarding the waters around Gibraltar has been commissioned into the Royal Navy fleet.
The White Ensign was hoisted for the first time on HMS Cutlass in a ceremony at Gibraltar Naval Base and she has now started patrols of territorial waters around The Rock after months of rigorous trials.
Cutlass will soon be joined by her sister ship HMS Dagger to complete a £10m investment in new small, fast and agile patrol boats for the Gibraltar Squadron.
More than 100 sailors – their friends and family – gathered to watch the commissioning ceremony, which saw Lieutenant Commander Adam Colman assume command of Cutlass.
Gibraltar’s Commander British Forces, Commodore Steve Dainton, His Excellency Sir David Steel, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and Mrs Justine Picardo were also in attendance.
Prayers and the Naval Hymn were conducted by Reverend David Conroy, Deputy Chaplain of the Fleet.
Mrs Picardo has been named the Lady Sponsor of HMS Cutlass, which is the first time a Gibraltarian has been appointed the sponsor of one of Her Majesty’s ships.
Commander Colman said: “It is an honor to be able to mark this very special occasion today.”
Cutlass has now started duties around The Rock, replacing P2000 HMS Pursuer, which has been operating alongside sister HMS Dasher in Gibraltar’s waters.
Cutlass and Dagger are the permanent replacements for the now decommissioned HMS Sabre and Scimitar which safeguarded Gibraltar’s waters for nearly two decades.
P2000 patrol ships HMS Dasher and Pursuer have acted as the Royal Navy’s presence around Gib, joining the squadron’s Pacific 24 RIBS on patrol, but Cutlass and Dagger will soon both be permanent replacements.
Built by Merseyside-based Marine Specialized Technology, whose team is working with the RN squadron to introduce Cutlass into service, the new boats are 19 metres long – slightly longer than Sabre and Scimitar, slightly shorter than Dasher and Pursuer – can hit speeds of 40 knots and are equipped with three machine-guns and the latest electronic/optical equipment to assist in identifying potential threats.
The Gibraltar Squadron provides security in British Territorial Waters, keeping close watch over Gibraltar’s shores, reassuring its 34,000 inhabitants, demonstrating UK sovereignty, exercising with local and visiting forces, and provide protection to visiting warships, submarines and support vessels alongside their civilian counterparts in the Gibraltar Defence Police force. Its boats are on the Rock around the clock – 365 days a year.