HMSML Gleaner has left Jersey after her final visit to the islands with the vessel scheduled to be decommissioned at the end of the year.
The most recent visit to Jersey has seen the vessel continue the extensive work it has conducted over recent years to improve and update the navigation charts of surrounding waters which date from the 1980s. This will allow the Navy to have the accurate information it requires to continue to conduct high speed navigation training in the area and will also provide greater confidence to merchant and civilian shipping.
The vessel also engaged in a number of civic functions during the visit including a prominent role in the island’s Liberation Day commemorations, marking the 72nd anniversary of the end of Nazi occupation.
HMSML Gleaner will now head for Portsmouth and commence the next phase of survey work of the harbour entrance ahead of the arrival of HMS Queen Elizabeth. In particular it will verify the success of dredging efforts to make sure the new carriers will have access to the port regardless of tidal conditions.
Gleaner has conducted similar work in recent years in the Firth of Forth to update the 60 year old charts for that waterway ahead of the new carrier putting to sea for trials. Earlier this year it also completed the first phase of survey work at Portsmouth. The fact that this next phase of survey process is being brought forward will only add to the mounting speculation that the carrier could be arriving in Portsmouth sooner than initially anticipated.
Describing the importance of the new mission, the vessel’s captain Lt Cdr Marc Taylor told the Jersey Evening Post that the survey work “will will allow us to produce new charts so we can be absolutely confident that the approach channels into the harbour are deep enough to allow her to come into port without any problems.’
Gleaner’s decommissioning was announced in parliamentary questions by the defence minister Lord Howe in 2016 and was initially scheduled for 2018. The latest reports suggest that this will be brought forward slightly to December 2017 with indications that the vessel will now be replaced with a new vessel to enter service in May 2018. Details on the replacement vessel remain limited.
HMSML Gleaner has been in service since 1983 and is the smallest commissioned vessel in the Royal Navy at only 14.8m long, with a displacement of 22 tonnes and a crew of nine.