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Romania snaps up two retired Royal Navy minehunters

Photo of HMS Blyth by Royal Navy

Two retired Royal Navy minehunters are set to enhance NATO’s Black Sea security mission in collaboration with the Romanian Navy, as per the official announcement by the Royal Navy.

The Sandown-class Mine Counter Measure Vessels, HMS Blyth and HMS Pembroke, have been transferred to Romania, a NATO ally of the UK, by the UK’s Defence Equipment Sales Authority (DESA), responsible for disposing of surplus vehicles, vessels, and equipment no longer needed by the UK Armed Forces.

Navy Command has collaborated with Babcock to renovate the minehunters in preparation for their handover to the new owners. The Royal Navy will offer training for individual operators and maintainers, as well as collective training.

The former Sandown-class ships are 52.5 meters long, weigh 485 tonnes, and have a range of over 2,500 nautical miles without refueling. Blyth was decommissioned in 2021, and Pembroke will retire next year.

The ships use high-definition sonar to scour the world’s seabeds for mines and lost explosives, which are then safely destroyed by the ship’s clearance diving teams or the ATLAS Seafox mine disposal system.

During their service in the UK Royal Navy, these minehunters collaborated extensively with regional and coalition partners to ensure the protection of critical sea lanes of communication, which are vital for global shipping and the global economy. HMS Blyth, one of four Navy mine-hunters permanently based in the Gulf, additionally saw deployments in the Baltic Sea and undertook domestic tasks.

HMS Pembroke accomplished the identification and safe disposal of a Russian mine from World War I, deploying a remote underwater vehicle to locate the device off the coast of Lithuania and ensure its secure disposal.

HMS Blyth was transferred to the Romanian Navy this month, while HMS Pembroke will be transferred next spring. 

The outgoing Sandown Class will be replaced by autonomous mine-hunting systems operating from RFA Stirling Castle, the new “mothership” bought by DE&S as a commercial vessel from Norwegian company Island Offshore before being modified for her future role.  

DESA’s recent minehunter sales include HMS Quorn, Dulverton, and Cottesmore to Lithuania, HMS Sandown, Inverness, and Bridport to Estonia, and HMS Berkeley and Bicester to Greece. Additionally, HMS Atherstone found a new home with maritime contractor Harland & Wolff.

Currently, DESA has two more former Royal Navy minehunters, namely HMS Penzance and HMS Bangor, available for sale.