Tanker RFA Wave Knight was treated to a low-key welcome in Portland as she returned from 11 months away east of Suez. Since leaving the UK, the fleet tanker has supported the international naval mission in the Middle East, providing fuel and other supplies to sustain the ongoing fight against piracy and other criminal activities in those troubled waters.
Such is the nature of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary that it does its work with maximum effort and minimum fuss – and doesn’t go in for big RN-style homecomings.
So there was a small turn-out for the 31,000-ton vessel and 71 souls aboard (mostly RFA, but also some Royal Navy and Fleet Air Arm in support of her 815 Naval Air Squadron Lynx flight.
The tanker’s time away from the UK has been devoted to supporting the international naval effort east of Suez, providing fuel for Coalition ships and aircraft, but also carrying out ‘front-line duties’ on occasions.
The ship escorted the P&O cruise ships Oriana and Arcadia through pirate-prone waters as hundreds of passengers stood on deck excitedly waving flags in acknowledgment.
Wave Knight also successfully coordinated and rescued ten sailors from a stricken pleasure craft – the Princess Melisa. The vessel had issued a mayday distress and was capsizing off the coast of Oman.
“Whilst it is always a pleasure to return home, we shall miss the work and daily uncertainty that is ever-present when operating East of Suez,” said the tanker’s Commanding Officer Capt Chris Clarke RFA.
“You never know what each day will bring – other than the unexpected. It is likely to occur and you have got to be ready for it.
“The work we do for the maritime community and the support we provide to our Government and our allies is always appreciated – whether that is providing logistic support, reassuring ships on the high seas, deterring and preventing illegal activities such as piracy or simply being ready and poised to react to geopolitical events.’’
In her 11 months away, the ship steamed 57,460 miles and replenished 56 warships and five tankers, issuing over 21,000 cubic metres of diesel fuel and 2,000 cubic metres of aviation fuel in the process.
Capt Clarke added:
“As ever, none of what we have achieved would have been possible without the dedication and professionalism of the ship’s company or without the support of so many family, friends and working colleagues at home.
“We dedicate this homecoming to them.”
Naval Today Staff , March 20, 2012; Image: royalnavy