Royal Navy warships have begun their World Cup security mission, spending the next two months safeguarding the waters around host nation Qatar.
Three minehunters, plus their mothership, have been tasked remain in and around Qatar and Central Gulf until Christmas as part of the Qatari-led international security effort, making sure the world’s greatest festival of football is not ruined by a hostile act.
His Majesty’s Ships Chiddingfold and Bangor will conduct round-the-clock patrols of the sea lanes leading to the Gulf state, using state-of-the-art sonar and underwater remote-controlled devices to locate and identify mines or bombs, and use either clearance divers or the Seafox submersible to render the contact harmless by safely blowing it up. HMS Middleton will remain on standby to provide additional support if needed.
The ships will spend the weeks leading up to the tournament, which opens on November 20 as the host nation takes on Ecuador, accurately mapping key sea lanes – the sonar is powerful enough to pick out contacts as small as a can of cola – making it easier to identify any recent changes or anomalies.
In addition, the British trio will support the broader security mission at sea, generally keeping an eye out for suspicious or unusual activity.
Their actions will be directed from support vessel RFA Cardigan Bay, which will act as command ship throughout the tournament with a specialist battle staff of minehunting experts.
Commander Adrian Visram, who is overseeing the Royal Navy effort with his staff, said his team had a wealth of experience to draw upon to help ensure the fiesta of football ran smoothly.
“Our minehunting force has been out here for 16 years keeping the sea routes open: the continuing flow of trade and energy during these tumultuous times is even more vital to UK interests,” he added.
“It is an immense privilege to command the Royal Navy’s support to the FIFA World Cup, building upon the strong defence relationship between Qatar and the UK. This demonstrates our commitment to working with international allies and partners to protect against threats overseas and promote our values.”
The ships left their home base in Bahrain last week, making the short 120-mile journey to Doha, which will be their base now until the winners lift the trophy on December 18.
The Royal Navy mission – involving more than 200 personnel and overseen from its regional headquarters in Bahrain – is part of a broader security operation by the UK’s Armed Forces, all working with the Qataris, to ensure the World Cup passes off peacefully.