HMS Richmond takes over shipping protection duties in ‘fraught’ Red Sea

Royal Navy frigate HMS Richmond has taken over responsibility for protecting shipping in the “fraught” Red Sea as attacks on vessels continue.

The Type 23 frigate replaces HMS Diamond, which has come under fire from Iran-backed Houthi forces on three occasions during its time on duty in the region.

A British-owned cargo vessel was attacked in the Red Sea on Tuesday, the UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) said.

British-owned vessel attacked in Red Sea
(PA Graphics)

The attack on the ship happened west of Hodeida in Yemen just after midnight on Tuesday.

The UKMTO said the ship’s master was “aware of a small craft on his port side” before a projectile was fired at the ship.

No crew were injured in the attack and the vessel sustained small damages to its bridge windows, but the ship was deemed safe to continue its journey.

Private security firm Ambrey said the vessel was a Barbados-flagged, British-owned cargo ship, according to reports by the Associated Press.

In a separate incident, an explosion was reported close to a merchant vessel around 50 nautical miles from Aden, Yemen.

The Yemen-based Houthi group has targeted shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, claiming its actions are in response to Israel’s war on Hamas in Gaza – an assertion dismissed by the UK and allies.

The dangers to shipping using the sea routes have forced many vessels travelling between Asia and Europe to divert around the southern tip of Africa instead of using the Suez Canal, increasing costs and lengthening delivery times.

The US-led Operation Prosperity Guardian has been intended to protect shipping using the vital sea lanes.

Type 45 destroyer HMS Diamond downed nine drones after coming under fire in three separate attacks by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels during its time as part of Operation Prosperity Guardian since December.

The vessel will now be rearmed before heading back into action.

The vessel’s commanding officer Commander Peter Evans said: “The situation in the region is fraught, and ships in the force are firing on a daily basis – we hand over the baton with our best wishes to the fantastic team in Richmond who we know will do a great job.

“Having deployed at just five days’ notice, we’re used to quickly switching aim, and now our focus is on a short maintenance and ammunition resupply period before we get back to our mission in the Red Sea.”

Red Sea shipping attacks
HMS Diamond fired her Sea Viper missiles during a recent incident in the Red Sea (Ships crew/MoD/Crown Copyright/PA)

In Downing Street, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak updated his Cabinet on the latest developments in the region.

He said joint US and UK strikes had had a “significant effect in degrading Houthi capability”.

“The Prime Minister added that while we will always act in self-defence to protect freedom of navigation and the safety of British lives at sea, the UK is not seeking confrontation and our fundamental aim is to de-escalate tensions in the region and deter further attacks,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

“The Foreign Secretary added that we continue to build a broad coalition of support for the site strikes, with six countries in addition to the UK and the US playing part of the military coalition and 24 countries signing the most recent statement of support.”