Britain is increasing its military presence in Bahrain with a $97.7 million expansion of the UK Maritime Component Command (UKMCC) complex, a report said.A new, larger headquarters is planned, as well as facilities to provide engineering and logistics support for the four Royal Navy mine countermeasures vessels based here, according to the report in the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication."The two projects for an HQ and the waterfront support group were brought together in 2012 and a contract worth $9.7 million has just been awarded to American International Contractors," said Permanent Joint Headquarters, the London-based organisation that plans and controls UK overseas military operations, in a statement."Building work will commence in a few months' time, and it is anticipated that both buildings will be finished early in 2015. The UKMCC headquarters was formed in November 2001, with just eight people."Today, with a command spanning an area of operations across the entire Middle East, command of 14 ships and aviation assets, a significantly larger and increasingly multi-national and coalition mission, and 41 people in the UK headquarters, the original building is no longer fit for our purpose."The UKMCC sits alongside the US Fifth Fleet Naval headquarters. It leads Britain's counter piracy and maritime anti-terrorism efforts in the region and at any one time can oversee the operations of up to a third of all Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels.Earlier this month, the UK government confirmed that 10 out of 32 British warships and support vessels on duty and at sea were in the Middle East.Only Royal Navy operations in and around UK waters, with 12 vessels of various sizes, including small offshore patrol vessels, sport a larger number of ships.Despite handing over the naval facilities at the Juffair district in Bahrain to the US Navy in 1971 , the Royal Navy has maintained a continuous presence in the Gulf since 1980 and is the second-biggest Western maritime force stationed here after the US."We are extending our co-operation on defence and security with Bahrain and the other GCC states, deliberately and for the long term," said a British Embassy spokeswoman."As UK operations in Afghanistan come to an end , we can expect to see more interaction between UK maritime, air and land elements with their GCC counterparts."We will remain solidly committed to intensifying and building up these links, based on common interests and the deepest possible mutual understanding and we will never take our relationships with Bahrai  and her partners for granted.
By Greg Fountain