HMAS Melbourne conducted her first Replenishment At Sea (RAS) with Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA)Fort Victoria, taking on 300,000 litres of fuel in less than 60 minutes.
The top-up of fuel allowed Melbourne to continue maritime patrols in the Arabian Sea in support of Combined Task Force 151 (CTF 151) for Operation SLIPPER.
CTF 151 is a multi-national naval coalition, dedicated to promoting security and prosperity across 2.5 million square miles of international waters in the Middle East. The main focus of CTF 151 is preventing piracy, reducing illegal activities, and promoting a safe maritime environment.
In the days leading up to the RAS, Melbourne communicated her requirement to take on fuel to CTF 151 who directed RFA Fort Victoria to rendezvous with Melbourne in the Arabian Sea.
Fort Victoria is a British supply ship 29 metres wide, 204 metres in length, a displacement of 33,675 tonne, a ship’s company of 134 personnel and a top speed of 20 knots. Fort Victoria is capable of pumping 700,000 litres of fuel per hour as she replenishes ships at sea. Half the pumping rate was required for the RAS with Melbourne.
Melbourne’s Commanding Officer, Commodore Brian Schlegel said that a RAS is seamanship evolution that requires concentration from everyone involved.
“Bringing 4800 tonnes of metal together at 12 knots, less than 50 metres from 33,675 tonnes of metal, requires focus and ship handling skills.
“Operating in this part of the world in hot conditions takes its toll on the personnel on the upper decks during a RAS. That is something we have to remain cognisant of when working in hot environments. Overall this was a safe and successful RAS with Fort Victoria,” Commodore Schlegel said.
While deployed, Melbourne will conduct maritime security and interception operations in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, Arabian Sea, Horn of Africa region and Arabian Gulf patrolling the strategically important Bab Al Mandeb strait between Yemen and Eritrea, and the Strait of Hormuz.
It is anticipated that Melbourne will RAS on a regular basis so that she can remain on station in the Middle East Area of Operations undertaking maritime security patrols as a part of Operation SLIPPER, Australia’s contribution to the International Coalition Against Terrorism. HMAS Melbourne is under direct control of Joint Task Force 633.
Press Release, October 03, 2013; Image: Australian Navy