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RFA Mounts Bay ready for 2019 hurricane season

2 May 2019
From drug busting to disaster relief – British support ship RFA Mounts Bay is getting ready for a summer and autumn as a ‘floating emergency service’ in the Caribbean.

The amphibious support ship is in the final stages of post-winter maintenance in Charleston, South Carolina, after spending the past four-five months supporting the ongoing struggle against drug smuggling across the Caribbean, serving as a base for US Coast Guard counter-narcotics team.

She didn’t bag any drug runners on this occasion – but her presence did cause some smugglers to ditch their cargos, as the team onboard came across sacks of drugs abandoned in the ocean.

The Falmouth-based vessel is two years into a three-year deployment as the UK’s Atlantic Patrol Ship, charged with reassuring Britons in our overseas territories in the region, helping them when needed and supporting the war on drugs.

Once the Wildcat and disaster relief troop are embarked, Mounts Bay will be able to quickly and effectively provide life-saving support to British Overseas Territories.

Captain Jeremy Macanley RFA

The Caribbean hurricane season traditionally runs from the beginning of June until the end of November, although the worst of the storms typically strike around September-time.

Last year, Mounts Bay wasn’t required to provide aid in the wake of the only really devastating hurricane – Florence – missed the Caribbean and skirted around Bermuda, but caused widespread damage in the USA.

The auxiliary was called upon extensively during the 2017 after a succession of storms smashed their way through Anguilla, Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos.

With the 2019 season looming, the ship is about to embark a Wildcat helicopter – used to scout for damage in the aftermath of a storm and move aid to places inaccessible by road – as well as a mix of Royal Marines and soldiers who form the Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Troop, able to repair basic amenities, patch up damaged buildings, clear blocked roads, provide security and reassurance… and a little muscle… to badly-hit communities.

The multi-million-pound package of work at the Detyens shipyard in Charleston – alongside ships from the US Navy’s support will not merely help Mounts Bay through the 2019 hurricane season, but into early 2020 when she’s due to return to the UK.

As well as crucial maintenance being applied to systems on board, a plethora of external agencies such as the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Lloyds will inspect Mounts Bay and assess her to make sure she’s safe and fully compliant with international standards and rules of the sea.

“I am very pleased that Mounts Bay is getting her ‘annual service’ to enable us to be as ready as possible to deliver assistance within our area of operations whenever required,” said Commanding Officer of Mounts Bay, Captain Jeremy Macanley RFA.

“Once the Wildcat and disaster relief troop are embarked, Mounts Bay will be able to quickly and effectively provide life-saving support to British Overseas Territories – or other nations that request our assistance – in the event of hurricane or other disaster.”

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