Royal Navy Decommissions Frigate Known for Busting Smugglers

HMS Montrose
HMS Montrose in her element, interdicting a shipment of Iranian weapons in the Middle East, 2022 (Royal Navy)

Published Apr 19, 2023 2:15 AM by The Maritime Executive

A Royal Navy frigate that has led prominent drug busts and seizures of illegal shipments of missiles in the Gulf of Oman and Indian Ocean has been decommissioned after three decades of service.

HMS Montrose saw her active life come to an end in Portsmouth after a 30-year-career serving the UK on the front line around the globe, a period in which the warship clocked up more than 400,000 miles on duty at home and overseas.

While there are few parts of the world the Duke-class frigate has not seen during her active life, over the past four years the warship has constantly been deployed on operations - almost exclusively in the Gulf and Indian Ocean, where she had become synonymous with multinational counter-smuggling efforts.

Over the period, Montrose made 10 drug busts seizing 16 tonnes of illegal narcotics worth in excess of $100 million,. She also seized illegal shipments of missiles and cruise missile engines and helped safely guide some 130 merchant vessels through maritime choke points.

HMS Montrose on escort duty in the Strait of Hormuz

The biggest drug bust was in March last year, when the crew of Montrose captured 6.5 tonnes of hashish, the heaviest haul of drugs seized by allied warships in the Middle East in a decade. The value of the seizure was estimated at about $8.5 million. In January and February of the same year, the frigate was part of a mission that intercepted small boats laden with Iranian surface-to-air missiles and cruise-missile components that were believed to be destined for Yemen’s Houthi rebel faction.

“It’s been a truly special occasion officially decommissioning this fine ship after 30 years’ service to both her monarchs and her country,” said Commander Claire Thompson, Montrose’s 20th and final commanding officer.

The warship returned to Devonport in December last year. Though originally she had been expected to remain in service through the mid-2020s and possibly retire in 2026-7, the Royal Navy opted to remove her from service due to the high cost of maintaining her. The service said that it is yet to determine the frigate’s ultimate fate.

The frigate will be replaced by one of the five Type 31 Inspiration-class frigates under construction in Rosyth. The first, HMS Venturer, is due in the water later this year.