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Knights of the Caribbean home as Navy ship completes eight-month mission

27 January 2022
Drug-busting, life-saving, Caribbean-patrolling support ship RFA Wave Knight has completed her eight-month mission around the Americas.

The tanker sailed into Portland, bringing the curtain down on a whirlwind 12 months from coming out of refit on Merseyside to leading the UK’s task force in the Caribbean through the Atlantic hurricane season.

With the emphasis on humanitarian assistance, Wave Knight delivered aid to the people of St Vincent upon her arrival in the region last June after their lives were turned upside down by a volcanic eruption, then supported the international relief effort in Haiti in the wake of an earthquake later in the summer.

When conditions allowed, the tanker returned to St Vincent to help scientists and local authorities study the impact of last spring’s eruption and replace some of the seismic monitors keeping an eye on the La Soufriere volcano.

The ship’s Wildcat helicopter – callsign Knight Rider – from 210 Flight/815 Naval Air Squadron proved indispensable in carrying out photographic surveys and deliver the monitors to remote sites on the fiery peak.

Crew and her embarked team of disaster relief specialists trained repeatedly with islanders across the region to ensure they could deliver maximum help should a severe tropical storm sweep through the Caribbean.

Thankfully, the weather gods were relatively kind and Wave Knight – in conjunction with the RN’s permanent presence in the region, patrol ship HMS Medway – were not required to intervene during the storm season.

And when not on standby to respond to disaster, the ship joined the international fight against drug trafficking.

Working hand-in-hand with the US Coastguard and its specialist boarding teams, and making full use of the speed and agility of Knight Rider, the ship scored a drugs bust within 24 hours of her first patrol.

She seized more than 200kg cocaine from a ‘go-fast’ – drugs worth over £17m had they reached the UK. 

Reverting to her original role of fast fleet tanker, the ship provided black gold frequently to the Dutch frigate HMNLS Holland to sustain her efforts against regional drug traffickers.

Working with our regional partners, Wave Knight and her embarked personnel have been a force for good and contributed to stability and resilience throughout the region. I am very proud of all that the ship has achieved.

Commodore David Eagles

Captain Ali Clack, the ship’s Commanding Officer, said the mix of Royal Fleet Auxiliary seafarers, Royal Navy aviators and engineers, British Army Crisis Response Troop and embarked US Coastguard “worked as one team to ensure RFA Wave Knight remained on task delivering a positive output in support of the UK’s overseas territories and partner nations in the Caribbean.

“It’s been a busy – and highly successful – year from leaving Cammell Laird’s shipyard in February 2021, generating for the deployment, departing from Scotland in early June fully-trained and stored to respond to the Core Hurricane Season.

“We exercised Humanitarian and Disaster Relief operations before settling into supporting US Coastguard Counter Drugs Trafficking operations, interdicting and questioning a number of suspicious craft which ultimately led to several large drug hauls.”

The head of the RFA, Commodore David Eagles, visited the tanker today to thank sailors for their efforts on an “extraordinarily successful deployment”.

He continued: “Working with our regional partners, Wave Knight and her embarked personnel have been a force for good and contributed to stability and resilience throughout the region. I am very proud of all that the ship has achieved”

Having completed their mission at the tail end of 2021, the ship’s company enjoyed a festive season in the historic city of Charleston, South Carolina, before sailing back to the UK as 2022 began.

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