Page last updated at 16:27 GMT, Friday, 3 July 2009 17:27 UK

Anti-piracy ship returns to base

HMS Portland
The crew of HMS Portland had been away at sea since December

The crew of Devonport-based warship HMS Portland has returned home after an anti-piracy operation in the Middle East and Indian Ocean.

The frigate clocked up 57,000 miles - the equivalent of travelling twice around the world - during its seven-and-a-half month deployment.

While overseas the crew was involved in more than 30 successful anti-piracy and counter narcotic boat raids.

It also oversaw the destruction of more than 50 tonnes of drugs.

During one incident the crew intercepted two suspected pirate boats, equipped with rocket propelled grenades and machine guns, in the Gulf of Aden.

Weapons confiscated

HMS Portland's boarding team of Royal Navy and Royal Marine personnel was supported by a Lynx helicopter, equipped with a machine gun and snipers, in the operation off the coast of Somalia.

The frigate destroyed one of the boats and the crew confiscated all their weapons.

Speaking after the ship's return to port, Commander Tim Henry said: "We came across 23 pirates in total and we disarmed them.

"We take their equipment off them and if we don't have sufficient a case to take them to prosecution, which we didn't, then we decide what they don't need and what they might use for piracy attacks in the future and we destroy that and send them on their way."

Friends and family of the crew turned out to welcome the sailors back to base.

Bunting was put up and a military band performed as the crowds waved flags when the ship pulled up alongside.

The crew has six weeks shore leave before returning to sea in September.

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