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Royal Navy vessel gets new lease on life after being retired in 2017

River-class OPV HMS Severn
Royal Navy file photo of HMS Severn

The formerly-decommissioned offshore patrol vessel HMS Severn has returned to operational status after her crew recently completed a three-week operational sea training assessment.

The vessel was retired in October 2017, but is now being returned to active service to help protect UK waters and fisheries after the Brexit.

HMS Severn’s return to service follows a November 2018 announcement by then defense secretary Gavin Williamson on keeping all Batch I River-class OPVs in active service. Severn completed her refit program in 2019.

She joins sisters HMS Mersey and Tyne with the capabilities and training to escort passing foreign warships, mount fishing vessel inspections and defend the UK border.

“We have regenerated Severn and successfully completed three weeks of basic operational sea training,” the ship’s commanding officer Commander Philip Harper said.

“This is the first time in living memory that the Royal Navy has re-commissioned a ship, and it’s been a challenge. We’ve achieved all of this during a global pandemic.”

Since a return to sea on April 1 she has already added nearly 5,000 miles to the log with 10% of her crew coming from the Royal Naval Reserve.

Offshore patrol vessels operating in the UK use a system of crew rotation which means they spend four weeks on the ship, then two on shore, with about a third making the switch at any time. With the “off watch” in isolation at home while the rest of the crew are at sea it has meant a succession of seamless transitions for the crew during the Covid-19 outbreak – vital for a class of ship which aims to achieve 320 days at sea per year.

The Batch I ships are being complemented by five Batch II River-class OPVs which were ordered in 2014. The Royal Navy has received four vessels so far, while the final one – HMS Spey – is being prepared for delivery by BAE Systems.