Royal Navy HMS Ocean (Crown Copyright, 2016) [880]

Royal Navy on #OpRUMAN

HMS Ocean and RFA Mounts Bay Deliver Disaster Relief in the Caribbean

On September 7, the Royal Navy announced that its flagship HMS Ocean had been diverted from a planned task to provide vital humanitarian aid to Caribbean islands devastated by Hurricane Irma and in the path of Hurricane José.

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon announced the change of tasking following a COBRA meeting.

With the danger posed by Hurricane Jose which will hit areas already affected by the storms, we are diverting a second ship to the Caribbean, our flagship HMS Ocean, to bring the help that will be needed in reconstruction after the hurricanes have passed.

The helicopter carrier and amphibious assault ship will join Royal Fleet Auxiliary Mounts Bay, providing logistical and medical support.

HMS Ocean (L12)

RFA Mounts Bay is already in the region and can provide a high level of capability and flexibility during disaster relief operations. She can provide emergency supplies of food, water and personnel – as well as medical support, temporary shelter and sanitation and the repair of infrastructure.

RFA Head of Service Commodore Duncan Lamb said: “My thoughts are with the people of Anguilla and neighbouring Caribbean islands affected by the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma.”

HMS Ocean was due to take over as flagship for NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2) deployment in the Mediterranean, but will instead now head towards the Atlantic.

She has six helicopter operating spots on her flight deck with space in the hangar for many more. She currently has around 630 Royal Navy, Royal Marine and Army personnel embarked and can carry a significant amount of aid to the affected areas.

RFA Mounts Bay Lands 6 Tonnes of Aid

By September 8, the Royal Navy was able to announce that RFA Mounts Bay had delivered six tonnes of emergency aid to Anguilla, the British Overseas Territory devastated by Hurricane Irma, and will shortly arrive in the British Virgin Islands to provide further support.

The ship has been deployed in the Caribbean since July in preparation for the hurricane season, ready to provide support at a moment’s notice. Tasked by the Royal Navy, she was the UK’s first military response to the Caribbean as part of Operation RUMAN.

The ship carries a specialist disaster relief team – drawn from the Royal Engineers and Royal Logistics Corps – as well as heavy plant for lifting and shifting and emergency kit and shelters provided by the Department for International Development.

Also on board are the Royal Navy’s Mobile Aviation Support Force – aviation specialists, meteorological advisors and flight deck crews.

Engineers were on hand to stop a potentially-dangerous fuel leak at Anguilla’s main petrol dump, restore power to the island’s sole hospital and hand out shelters providing temporary homes for people left homeless by the storm. They also cleared the runway which was declared safe for relief flights.

My people worked tirelessly throughout the day with determination and flexibility to support the Governor and the people of Anguilla

Captain Stephen Norris RFA, Commanding Officer of Mounts Bay

RFA Mounts Bay’s Wildcat helicopter – from 815 Naval Air Squadron based at Yeovilton – also flew Governor Tim Foy on a flight over the island – which is about the size of Plymouth – to survey the damage from the air during seven hours of continuous flying. The reconnaissance flight found widespread damage to infrastructure, schools, government buildings and power supplies.

As a result of the sortie, the island’s leaders and ship’s team decided to focus efforts on supporting the police headquarters as the hub of the relief effort, get the hospital on its feet again, and reinforce two shelter stations – particularly important with Hurricane José now heading towards the region.

Mounts Bay’s Commanding Officer Captain Stephen Norris RFA said, “My people worked tirelessly throughout the day with determination and flexibility to support the Governor and the people of Anguilla.

“Although Anguilla suffered extensive damage, normal signs of life were returning – some roads open and the local population beginning a recovery and clear-up operation.”

RFA Mounts Bay is now making for the British Virgin Islands – 90 miles to the west – to concentrate today’s disaster relief efforts.

As part of a wider military effort, Britain’s flagship HMS Ocean has been diverted from her NATO mission in the Mediterranean to the Caribbean to help with the reconstruction effort – as HMS Illustrious did in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines four year ago.

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