“All those involved in the replenishment at sea are required at their station”. When this order is broadcast over loudspeakers on board the German tanker FGS Rhön, the seamanship crew reacts quickly by donning their hard hats and safety gear before making final preparations for what is a highly specialized manoeuvre at sea.
At the same time, the EU Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) Somalia Operation Atalanta flagship, FGS Brandenburg, prepares to make a controlled approach to the tanker in order to carry out what will be their first replenishment at sea (RAS) with FGS Rhön off the coast of Somalia. The RAS will enable the German frigate to top-up her fuel tanks and remain at sea for a couple of weeks to conduct patrols in the piracy high risk area.
During a RAS is it crucial that the ships maintain the same course and speed, as well as a pre-determined distance apart, with a distance safety line being passed between the two ships prior to the fuel lines being connected.
As soon as the refuelling is completed, all the lines are detatched and the ships move apart once again. Speaking about the RAS, FGS Rhön’s Executive Officer (XO), K Dirk stated “The role of ships such as Rhön is to supply warships at sea. We carry different types of fuel for ships and helicopters and we can also supply fresh water.”
FGS Brandenburg and FGS Rhön arrived in the Gulf of Aden in early April and will remain with Operation Atalanta for four months.
Press Release, April 14, 2014; Image: EU Navfor