RFA Mounts Bay ready for hurricane season

All the pieces of the jigsaw are in place for RFA Mounts Bay to respond to hurricanes and tropical storms smashing through the Caribbean over the next five months.

The auxiliary now has all the personnel, equipment and supplies needed to deal with the aftermath of a natural disaster.

The Falmouth-based support ship was used extensively during the 2017 when a series of storms battered British territories in the region, such as the Virgin and Turks and Caicos Islands.

Her Wildcat helicopter carried out reconnaissance missions to survey damage, Royal Marines, commando engineers and soldiers delivered aid, cleared roads, restored basic infrastructure and helped to reinforce law and order.

This liaison and training means we are better prepared to work together, should disaster strike, either in Bermuda or any of the other UK Overseas Territorities.

Captain Jeremy Macanley RFA

With the five-month-long Atlantic hurricane season beginning on Saturday, the ship is once again primed to intervene after focusing on drug-busting operations during the winter.

Once again a Wildcat helicopter – 211 Flight from 815 Naval Air Squadron in Yeovilton – and a dedicated Humanitarian and Disaster Relief troop (a combination of 24 Commando Royal Engineers and 17 Port and Maritime Regiment) are embarked.

Key to successful disaster relief work should it be required is planning, so Mounts Bay will spend the next few weeks hopping around UK territories, discussing plans with island authorities and underlining what assistance she can provide – beginning with Bermuda.

The commando engineers spent a week working side-by-side with the Royal Bermudan Regiment – preparation not merely for joint work in the event of a storm, but also for the largest disaster relief exercise being staged in the Caribbean this summer: Exercise Tradewinds, which is being run in the Dominican Republic and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

And on the lighter side, Mounts Bay hosted numerous visitors from Bermuda’s premier, E. David Burt and Governor John Rankin to Junior Leaders and Cub Scouts, all of whom enjoyed comprehensive tours while the ship was berthed in Hamilton Harbour.

“We have been able to conduct vital liaison with the Bermudan authorities while our disaster relief troop from 24 Commando Royal Engineers achieved excellent training with the Royal Bermuda Regiment,” said RFA Mounts Bay’s Commanding Officer Captain Jeremy Macanley RFA.

“This liaison and training means we are better prepared to work together, should disaster strike, either in Bermuda or any of the other UK Overseas Territorities.”

Lieutenant Lee Holborn, in charge of the Wildcat flight, joined Mounts Bay fresh from counter-narcotics training in Florida with the US Coast Guard.

“Our helicopter is capable of providing airborne surveys of affected areas using its sophisticated sensor suite and then delivering aid to the most inaccessible areas by lifting stores to those that need it most, and getting manpower to the right places to have the greatest impact,” he explained.