Office of the Governor
The Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship ‘RFA MOUNTS BAY’ will be docked in Port Miami from May 22nd to May 25th, to re-embark her Royal Navy WILDCAT helicopter and Disaster Relief military force in preparation for the 2018 hurricane season officially starting June 1st.
MOUNTS BAY has been deployed in the Caribbean for almost a year now, having arrived from the UK in June 2017, and will complete her current assignment in 2020. The UK maintains a year-round naval presence in the Caribbean to provide a rapid response and reassurance to any emerging rapid-onset crises in the Territories.
The British naval vessel played an instrumental role during last year's hurricane season, providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) in the Caribbean in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria.
MOUNTS BAY was immediately deployed when Hurricane Irma struck the UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs) and Operation RUMAN was rolled out to offer support.
The early days of disaster relief tasking were conducted as a highly capable solitary unit, loaded with the additional force elements of a Wildcat helicopter flight, Royal Logistic Corps detachment and HADR troop. Early tasking was reactive, largely in line with the priorities set by the Governors of Anguilla and British Virgin Islands (BVI) and it was these early days where MNTS had the most impact from a humanitarian aid perspective, delivering large amounts of water and food to the devastated populations of Anguilla and BVI.
A deteriorating security situation in BVI also drove the focus of tasking with the HADR troop re-rolled to provide security ashore whilst follow-on forces were flown in to support.
Roll-outs of heavy plant and engineers ashore utilising the ships mexeflote pontoon raft were undertaken in Anguilla, BVI and TCI with suitable landing points identified through aerial and surface reconnaissance. The heavy plant was best utilised in TCI where there was less damage to road infrastructure than the other OTs.
St Croix, USVI was initially used as a logistics hub and MNTS made two visits alongside to load stores, particularly building supplies and DFID stores, before the passage of MARIA and damage to the infrastructure there made it untenable. St Maarten was used to collect DFID stores towards the end of RUMAN, whilst Martinique was used a reset port in the middle.
Whilst MOUNTS BAY’s primary task is to provide enhanced security and reassurance to the UK Overseas Territories, including disaster relief when called upon, she has also been involved in counter-narcotic operations and continues to be on very short notice to react to any emerging crises, primarily in the region, but also around the world.
During her stay in Miami, MOUNTS BAY will embark her new WILDCAT helicopter from 815 Naval Air Station, an Army detachment from the Royal Logistics Corp Port and Maritime Regiment and a detachment of Royal Engineers from 24 Commando Royal Marines; all this in addition to the ship’s company crewed by the civilian-manned RFA.
The Commanding Officer Captain David J. Buck RFA said:
“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to bring MOUNTS BAY to the spectacular city of Miami and to hopefully enhance the high reputation the ship has gained in the Caribbean and Eastern seaboard region over the past 12 months, especially following her support in the wake of last year’s devastating hurricanes. After return visits to territories affected earlier this year, my ship’s company have been working incredibly hard to prepare her again to provide further such support, should it be needed. That process will continue here in Miami, where we look forward to the return of our highly capable embarked military force prior to an intense period of training and regeneration to prove our readiness to continue our enduring mission.”
A slightly unusual cargo is being carried on board MOUNTS BAY. For her disaster relief work, she carries tractors, diggers, trucks, quad bikes, command and all-terrain vehicles. And if no alongside berth is available, she can dock down and operate a specialised raft to bring the vehicles up to and across a beach just where they are needed. Her state-of-the-art WILDCAT helicopter can be used to assess damage after a hurricane – both day and night – and she carries armed snipers for the counter-narcotics work.
In addition, the British ship’s CO and crew carry out community and conservation work, beside the normal diplomatic and protocol work of official receptions, Captain’s Calls on officials and liaising with Disaster Management organisations in the region.
RFA MOUNTS BAY will depart Miami on May 25th to undertake an intense training period over the next 2 weeks to re-validate her capability and to prove readiness for future such operations.
RFA Mounts Bay is one of three Landing Ship Docks (Auxiliary). During operational Service, RFA Mounts Bay has already played a key role in many amphibious exercises, including operations off Sierra Leone, the Baltic Regions, around the coast of the United Kingdom and Western Europe.