Royal Navy fleet flagship HMS Ocean has been diverted from a planned task to provide vital humanitarian aid to Caribbean islands devastated by Hurricane Irma and in the path of Hurricane José.
The helicopter carrier and amphibious assault ship will join Royal Fleet Auxiliary Mounts Bay, providing logistical and medical support.
Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon announced the change of tasking following a COBRA meeting today.
“With the danger posed by Hurricane Jose which will hit areas already affected by the storms, we are diverting a second ship to the Caribbean, our flagship HMS Ocean, to bring the help that will be needed in reconstruction after the hurricanes have passed,” he said.
RFA Mounts Bay is already in the region and can provide a high level of capability and flexibility during disaster relief operations. She can provide emergency supplies of food, water and personnel – as well as medical support, temporary shelter and sanitation and the repair of infrastructure.
RFA Head of Service Commodore Duncan Lamb said: “My thoughts are with the people of Anguilla and neighbouring Caribbean islands affected by the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma.”
HMS Ocean was due to take over as flagship for NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2) deployment in the Mediterranean but will instead now head towards the Atlantic.
She has six helicopter operating spots on her flight deck with space in the hangar for many more. She currently has around 630 Royal Navy, Royal Marine and Army personnel embarked and can carry a significant amount of aid to the affected areas.