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NAVY'S TV STAR HEADS FOR GULF

Portsmouth-based warship HMS Grafton, star of the forthcoming TV drama Making Waves, heads east next week to tackle oil smugglers in the Gulf.

The Type 23 frigate, cast as the fictitious HMS Suffolk for the ITV series, will spend six months patrolling and protecting Iraq's territorial waters. Grafton and her 174 crew will form part of a United Nations coalition force in the northern Gulf. Commander Adrian Cassar, the ship's Commanding Officer, said: "Following the end of combat operations in Iraq the focus has shifted to the long-term humanitarian, political and economic welfare of the Iraqi people, maintaining security and upholding international law in the region.

"One of our tasks is to deter and where necessary intercept and detain vessels suspected of smuggling oil out of Iraq."

He added: "We are committed to the government's aim of returning economic stability to Iraq and this includes controlling the theft by smuggling of oil that belongs to the Iraqi people as well as enforcing the embargo on arms imports."

The deployment is in stark contrast to the ship's programme during the first half of 2003 when she was home to 30 actors and 60-film crew. Grafton took on the guise of a frigate undergoing intensive sea training and many of the real-life ship's company feature in cameo roles in the series which is due to hit our screens in the summer.

Cdr Cassar added: "Although it is disappointing that we are likely to be away when the drama is launched on our screens, Grafton's absence on an operational deployment serves to illustrate how frigates such as HMS Suffolk and her crew operate. I think Making Waves will give people a realistic insight and greater understanding of life in the Royal Navy.

"Grafton is a very capable ship with a well-trained and motivated team. She is well worked up from recent exercises to perform this important task. We are all looking forward to making a real contribution to operations in the Middle East region."