UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) Secretary Gavin Williamson has revealed plans to retain three of the Royal Navy’s Batch 1 River-class offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) for at least another two years.

HMS Tyne, HMS Mersey and HMS Severn are being currently used by the navy to support the Fishery Protection Squadron.

The OPVs will help strengthen and support the country’s ability to protect the fishing fleet, as well as the UK territorial waters and shores. They will forward-operate from ports near the rivers they are named after in Newcastle, Liverpool and Cardiff respectively.

The ships are also used by the Royal Navy to perform anti-smuggling and counter-terrorism operations, in addition to escorting foreign vessels, including those from Russia through the English Channel.

Williamson said: “Britain’s patrol vessels are essential to protecting our waters, our fisheries and our national security.

“Safeguarding the future of these three ships in the Royal Navy will ensure we can respond quickly to incidents at any time.”

“Safeguarding the future of these three ships in the Royal Navy will ensure we can respond quickly to incidents at any time, further protecting our waters as we exit the European Union (EU).

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“By forward-operating these ships from their affiliated locations across the country, including the Tyne, it will not only allow them to react quickly, but also strengthen the bonds between the Royal Navy and local communities.”

Operationally available for 320 days a year, each OPV will also be deployed to deter illegal pollution activity and provide emergency firefighting capabilities for other vessels when required.

Furthermore, the Batch 1 River-class vessels are equipped with a 20mm cannon, which has the ability to fire 700 rounds in one minute at a maximum effective range of 1,300 yards and can travel at a speed of up to 20k.

By the end of 2020, the Batch 1 OPVs are expected to be joined by a fleet of five new-generation Batch 2 River-class ships, which are HMS Forth, HMS Medway, HMS Trent, HMS Tamar and HMS Spey.