Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Wave Knight returned to Portland, Dorset, on April 24th following a 15-month deployment to the Caribbean.
The fleet replenishment tanker has been operating as part of the Royal Navy’s Atlantic Patrol Task (North); this is part of the UK’s year round commitment to the region in support of the UK’s overseas territories, disaster relief, counter narcotics operations and defence engagement.
During the height of the 2013 hurricane season RFA Wave Knight was joined by Portsmouth-based frigate HMS Lancaster which deployed to the region for a seven-month tour.
The ship’s commanding officer Captain Duncan Lamb, said: “Over the past 15 months Wave Knight has provided tremendous capability and value in the Caribbean with notable success in disrupting regional crime.
“At the same time, we remained ready, on short notice, to support any crisis across the world. This is a testament to the commitment, training and versatility of the small ship’s company.”
The 31,500 tonne ship’s patrol included the following achievements:
- Seized 1536kg of cocaine and 1520kg of marijuana, leading to 29 suspected drug runners detained by United States authorities.
- The first ever embarkation of a United States Coast Guard helicopter tactical squadron to a non-United States ship for 292 days of the ship’s 471-day deployment.
- Steamed 54,915 miles From Portland in Dorset to Portland in Caribbean, equivalent to 2.5 times round the world.
- Called at 21 different ports and raised £3,000 for charity.
Petty Officer Steward Deborah (Debbie) Hamilton, 54, lives in Lyme Regis with her husband Barry (both seafarers). She said: “It was a pleasant but busy deployment. But I missed my children and grandchildren.’’
She said the highlight of patrol was the embarked USA Law Enforcement teams making a £60 million drug bust.
Personally speaking, she was proud of having been in charge of setting up cocktail parties with her department of seven. She has been on numerous deployments during a long career at sea.
Colleague Liam Tomlin, 36, lives in Weymouth and is a Leading Hand Steward on board RFA Knight. He said: “I enjoyed the port visits and sun, had temporary promotion during the deployment so it has been rewarding.’’
He Missed his family but managed to stay in contact with them throughout the deployment ands the highlight of the trip was witnessing the £60 million drug bust.
He has worked for the RFA for 7 years
RFA Wave Knight carried humanitarian stores including those supplied by the UK Department for International Development in case of a hurricane or other disaster.
Before deploying from the UK the crew completed a training package in Plymouth which tested and developed their ability to plan and deliver support to relief operations.
RFA Wave Knight (A389) is a Wave-class Fast Fleet Tanker of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. She was launched in 2000 and accepted into service in 2003.
The ship is crewed by 77 Royal Fleet Auxiliary personnel and supported by three Royal Naval personnel for weapons systems operations. The ship regularly embarks up to 11 US Law Enforcement Personnel whilst operating in the Caribbean region.
RFA Wave Knight is able to operate in support of amphibious forces, anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare operations and protection of vital sea areas and shipping.
The RFA Service is a flotilla of 13 support ships to the Royal Navy also delivering support to UK and allied armed forces around the world. Owned by the Ministry of Defence, it is manned by British civilian sailors who are trained to Merchant Navy Standards prior to undertaking the military training required to operate alongside the Royal Navy.
The RFA supports a wide spectrum of operations from war-fighting to counter-piracy, disaster relief, counter-narcotics, law enforcement and evacuation operations.
The RFA’s primary roles are: Replenishment at sea of fuel, stores and ammunition while moving, logistic and specialist shipping support to amphibious operations, operating support platforms for naval aviation, medical support and casualty handling, logistic support to submarines, operating a forward repair ship facility for battle-damaged ships, regional engagement in support of UK political, economic and military objectives and maritime surveillance, security and policing.
Press Release, April 28, 2014; Image: Royal Navy