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Gold and Ivory in perfect harmony as RFA tanker joins piracy mission off Africa

31 October 2016
Sandwiched between French helicopter carrier FS Dixmude and tiny patrol boat Sekongo, tanker RFA Gold Rover takes her place in the fight against illegal fishing and piracy off the Ivory Coast.

The veteran British ship joined a long-running French mission – Operation Corymbe – to deal with criminal activity in the Gulf of Guinea/

The trio patrolled 200 miles of coastline and waters off shore, stretching from the Ivory Coast’s principal port – and largest city – Abidjan to San Pedro, close to the western frontier with Liberia.

When the Ivory Coast patrol boat broke away for a specific mission, Gold Rover stayed with the Dixmude (which is a sort of hybrid of HMS Ocean and Bulwark) remained together for a series of combined manoeuvres from ‘dry hook-ups’ simulating a refuelling at sea (that’s everything minus the act of pumping fuel across) to the real thing; the tanks of the 21,000-tonne French ship needed topping up and Gold Rover obliged with 500 cubic metres of black gold… enough to fill up more than 9,000 family cars.

While all this was going on, French Navy rifleman hopped across to Gold Rover to carry out some training… and the tanker’s Royal Marines detachment joined the Dixmude to demonstrate how they disarm suspects and clear a ship of criminal elements. 

“The French provided us with the finest French hospitality and allowed our team to conduct live firing on board the Dixmude using their FAMAS rifle and general service pistol,” said Lt Hector Bevan, in charge of the RFA’s commando detachment.

“A delicious lunch and a tour round a very capable ship was followed by a period in which we shared our clearance techniques with French and a small contingent of Portuguese Marines.”

"This was a fantastic opportunity to understand and work with our allies – and experience the delights of French cuisine!”

It is testament to the design of RFA Gold Rover and the support she has had over these past 42 years that this ship and her personnel continue to perform at the highest level.

Capt Richard Taylor

After more than four decades in service, this is likely to be Gold Rover’s final deployment, providing fuel to any RN vessel in South Atlantic waters (soon to be HMS Portland when she completes her mid-deployment period of maintenance in Simon’s Town, South Africa).

“It is testament to the design of RFA Gold Rover and the support she has had over these past 42 years that this ship and her personnel continue to perform at the highest level,” said the tanker’s Commanding Officer Capt Richard Taylor. 

The tanker left Simon’s Town shortly before the frigate arrived, continuing 6,000 miles up Africa’s west coast (via Walvis Bay in Namibia to take on supplies) to the Gulf of Guinea.

Before knuckling down to Operation Corymbe, Gold Rover hosted Abidjan school children, the Ivory Coast Navy and UK Embassy Staff. All were treated to full ships tours and capability demonstrations including fire fighting and damage control techniques by ships staff and weapon demonstrations provided by the Royal Marines detachment.

The African nation’s Navy only has about 1,000 personnel – but still a rich enough pool of talent to form a better football side than Gold Rover as a 5-2 victory for the hosts demonstrated (although the visitors claimed they were felled by ‘five lucky counter-attacks’. 

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