All has been revealed as to why the , a Loire-class specialist offshore support ship spent so much time in South West waters during which time she paid two visits to Falmouth.

For her first mission as part of the Silverlink Local In-Water Training (SL LIWT 21) exercise Garonne loaded and discharged at the docks an Intervention Remotely Operated Vehicle (IROV) and other equipment to be used for a NATO Submarine Rescue System (NSRS). This is vital equipment that could be used at a moment’s notice by NATO partner nations including Norway, France and the UK.

Garonne carried out intensive trials and training to prove her ability to work with NATO’s Submarine Rescue System (NSRS) spending time on exercise off the North Wales coast where locals speculated that she was in the UK to watch over UK and French fishing fleets due to the on-going row between both countries over fishing rights.

The IROV a jointly owned UK, French and Norwegian system is capable of diving down to a submarine in distress, docking with the escape hatches and carrying out an evacuation.

One of the key parts of the system is a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) used to confirm the location of disabled submarines and supply them with life support equipment and to clear any debris or wires entangling the vessel.

The NSRS team – headed by Commander Richard Cragg Royal Navy – worked with Garonne’s crew with the ROV to carry out tests with new technology which will speed up emergency reaction time.

The NSRS is designed to be transported anywhere in the world within 72 hours to support the global submarine rescue network and is based at the home of the UK’s Submarine Service at Clyde Naval Base in Scotland.

This was the first deployment of the NSRS to the Loire-class, which will provide a new level of operational flexibility for the system following the successful training off the South Coast of the UK.

The Garonne is one of four new specialist Loire-class support ships built for the French Navy designed to provide a multitude of services, from supporting diving operations and dealing with pollution in the aftermath of a spillage at sea, to assisting submarines and surface ships, including salvage operations.

Falmouth’s port facilities are ideal for providing an excellent platform for operations in the Western Approaches, Channel and Celtic Sea in support of NATO operations.

With her submarine rescue mission over Garonne carried out a towing exercise off the Devon coast with the Royal Navy when HMS Albion one of Britain’s biggest warships was towed through the Channel to help the French test the power of a new specialist ship designed to tow the next generation of French aircraft carriers.

The FS Garonne towed the assault ship to assess its pulling strength and abilities – as well as hone Anglo-French naval co-operation and the Royal Navy’s own emergency procedures.