After stopping 20 armed pirate groups and seizing more than 50 pirates, RFA Fort Victoria has completed a marathon 40-month deployment by sailing home yesterday. For many of her 1,197 days away from the United Kingdom, support ship RFA Fort Victoria has acted as Britain’s leading warrior in the fight against 21st-Century piracy in the Indian Ocean.
The vessel – built to provide the warships of the Royal Navy with fuel, food, ammunition and stores – has twice acted as the flagship of a specially-formed task force of sailors and Royal Marines charged with successfully hunting down ‘pirate action groups’ – clusters of skiffs and mother ships operating off the Somali coast, intending to attack merchant shipping.
Each one of the successful blows against the pirates – be it a disrupted attack or arresting suspects – has been marked with skull and crossbones painted on the bridge wing of the 35,000-tonne oiler/replenishment ship: 20 successes in all.
Fort Vic’s deployment began when she left Crombie Jetty, near Rosyth in Scotland, in August 2010 – and it is to the same place that she returns, mission complete.
“During our time away we have led a number of counter piracy task groups, captured over 50 pirates, recaptured a large Italian bulk carrier – the MV Montecristo – rescued a significant number of merchant seamen from pirates and, most importantly, made the waters around Somalia much safer,” said her Commanding Officer Capt Shaun Jones OBE RFA.
The ship is a specialist auxiliary, fast and well armed; she carries stores, ammunition and fuel as well as having a large flight deck and hanger.
This has allowed RFA Fort Victoria to not only conduct her patrols but to replenish other British and Allied warships in the region to enable them to stay on task longer.
Although the ship has been away from the UK since August 2010, her 150 crew – mostly Royal Fleet Auxiliary, supported by Royal Navy and Civil Service personnel – change every few months.
“It has been a magnificent honour to serve as Fort Victoria’s Commanding Officer through much of this period and I have nothing but admiration for the men and women who have worked onboard,” said Capt Jones.
“Together the RFA, Royal Navy and Civil Service personnel – plus other military units who have served in the ship – have ensured that the deployment was such a unique and stunning success.”
“We are all looking forward to seeing our families and loved ones again and the ship will now have a well deserved refit prior to returning to operations in early 2015.”
Fort Victoria’s east-of-Suez mission is being continued by RFA Fort Austin, which is currently the flagship of the international Combined Task Force 151, overseeing the counter-piracy effort across 2.5 million square miles of Indian Ocean.
Press Release, December 10, 2013; Image: Royal Navy