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RFA Mounts Bay visits Anguilla

RFA Mounts Bay visits Anguilla
2 August 2017
Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship RFA Mounts Bay paid a short but welcome visit to the picturesque Caribbean island of Anguilla during the latter part of July.

The amphibious support ship visited the island to display her impressive disaster management capability, as well as provide liaison, engagement and assurance to other UK Overseas Territories (UKOT) in the region.

Mounts Bay has recently arrived on station from the UK and is starting her Caribbean deployment with a series of visits to the region’s UKOT during July.

The UK maintains a year-round naval presence in the region to provide a rapid response to any emergency in the UKOT. Mounts Bay relieved RFA Wave Knight earlier in the month, the latter now having returned to the UK.

A busy programme was scheduled for Anguilla, including helicopter operations with Royal Anguillan Police Force (RAPF), visits for local school children and a targeted disaster relief exercise incorporating a number of local groups and officials.

It is a privilege to Command such a versatile unit with such an amazing and helpful range of military personnel, equipment and capability

Captain Chris Clarke MBE RFA, Commanding Officer of RFA Mounts Bay

This is in addition to the routine diplomatic work of official regional engagement receptions, Commanding Officer (CO) calls on officials and liaison with Anguillan disaster management personnel.

During the visit Mounts Bay also handed over two bespoke police vehicles and assorted specialist protection equipment to the RAPF. 

The refurbished vehicles, previously used by the Sussex Police, have been transported from the UK, at considerable cost saving, following agreement between the Governor’s Office, Foreign & Commonwealth Office and UK Ministry of Defence. 
The Police Commissioner and Governor were on hand to witness the delivery on arrival.

Mounts Bay brought with her an interesting and unusual cargo including; the UK’s new Royal Navy Wildcat helicopter from 815 Naval Air Squadron, commanded by a female RN Officer; an Army detachment from the Royal Logistics Corp Port and Maritime Regiment, also commanded by a female RLC Officer; and a detachment of Engineers from 24 Commando Royal Engineers - this on top of the civilian-manned RFA ship’s company.

Captain Chris Clarke MBE RFA, CO of Mounts Bay, said, “It is a privilege to Command such a versatile unit with such an amazing and helpful range of military personnel, equipment and capability. In many respects what Mounts Bay brings to the UK’s Overseas Territories is transformational in capability; we are able to provide a new enhanced range of options to any Government decision-making body when responding to a new rapid onset crises”.

Whilst Mounts Bay’s primary task is to provide enhanced security and reassurance to the UKOTs, including disaster relief when called upon, she will also be involved in counter-narcotic operations, work with partners in the region and continue to be on very short notice to react to any emerging crises around the world.

Her slightly unusual cargo, including tractors, diggers, trucks, quad bikes, command and all-terrain vehicles helps to make her the perfect disaster relief platform However, it is the personnel and their skills in using them which makes the real difference.

Officer Commanding (OC) Royal Engineer Regiment detachment, Lieutenant Oli Fletcher RE commented, “This small detachment of 19 people is full of useful skill-sets in times of need. Plumbers, fitters, joiners, mechanics and plant operators provide a wide range of potential options to the disaster management team in that first 24 – 48 hours following a disaster. With the Army, RFA and RN assistance we can deploy rapidly and get to work where we are best needed”.

Getting all this equipment and personnel to the right place at the right time is yet another task for Mounts Bay, particularly if an alongside berth is not available.  This is where the RLC’s unique equipment and skill set comes to the fore.

Lieutenant Louise Tester, OC of the Army Royal Logistic Corps detachment added, “The RLC team provides the ship with a unique ship to shore capability. Using the highly versatile ‘Mexeflote’ raft system we are able to transfer equipment, personnel, stores and vehicles from the ship to the shore in circumstances where normal shore infrastructure is unavailable or out of range. By using metal track-way dispensers we can disembark vehicles on otherwise inaccessible beaches. The detachment on board is made up of a number of trades providing many unique and helpful skills including Mariners, Marine Engineers, Port Operators, Ship Wrights, Vehicle Mechanics and Vehicle Support Specialists”.

Last, but not least, Mounts Bay also boasts the capabilities of the Wildcat HMA2, the Royal Navy’s newest maritime helicopter which would play a vital role in any disaster relief scenario.

Lieutenant Amy Gilmore RN, RFA Mounts Bay’s Flight Commander remarked, “The Wildcat’s ability to operate in otherwise inaccessible areas allows us to reach the most vulnerable people by day and night in a very short space of time. The aircraft’s rescue winch offers fast casualty evacuation options whilst her under-slung lift capability facilitates the rapid delivery of relief stores.

"Even before the ship arrives on scene, we can get ‘eyes on the ground’ through use of the aircraft’s long range video recording camera, digital mapping suite and aerial photography equipment. This can provide an early and accurate, near real-time picture for disaster relief planning groups. Effective interoperability with the other elements of Mounts Bay’s disaster relief organisation makes the Wildcat a truly invaluable asset for this type of work”.

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