Royal Navy, February 27, 2020 - The baton in the struggle against drug runners and ravages of nature in the Caribbean has been passed to new patrol ship HMS Medway.
After three years carrying out a three-pronged mission to support British citizens in the region, support the international fight against trafficking and provide help in the wake of natural disasters, support ship RFA Mounts Bay has completed her mission and is heading back to the UK.
She formally handed over responsibility for the mission – Atlantic Patrol Task (North) – to Medway, which will be stationed in the Caribbean long-term as part of the Navy’s Forward Presence drive, basing vessels around the globe for several years at a time, sparing them the lengthy journey to and from their patrol areas allowing them to spend more time performing their tasks.
The two British ships met up on the Dutch island of Curacao, where Mounts Bay offloaded some of the humanitarian aid supplies left over from last year’s hurricane season – when she helped Bahamians affected by Hurricane Dorian – and transferred it to Medway.
Since arriving in her new zone of operations a month ago, Medway has been getting to know the region, the forces she is likely to be working with in relief and drug-busting missions such as the Bermudian authorities, French Navy in Martinique where the local commander Rear Admiral Jean Hausermann was invited aboard and the ship’s company outlined what the new River-class ship can do.
To sustain her on her long-term mission, Medway has three crew – red, white and blue – who rotate through the ship every few weeks.
The first rotation – White going home, Blue coming out to join Red already aboard – was successfully completed in Curacao, and there was still time for the sailors to relax and enjoy the tropical idyll.
“After a hot and sweaty store ship with more humanitarian aid and disaster relief supplies, a team visited Mounts Bay for the handover and to learn about their experiences of the past three years operating in the area,” said Commander Ben Power, Medway’s Commanding Officer.
“We’ve been inspired by Mounts Bay success and, with our new, refreshed crew, we’re sailing to Jamaica for further defence engagement and continued preparation for disaster relief and counter-narcotic operations.”
Mounts Bay – whose last success in theatre was a £40m drugs bust with the US Coast Guard at the beginning of February – is now making her way back across the Atlantic for the first time since 2017.
She’s been away for more than 1,000 days – over half of them at sea – having clocked up nearly 90,000 miles and visited 32 different ports.
Captain Kevin Rimell, her final Commanding Officer before she goes into a refit in Falmouth said the ship left the Caribbean having made an “immense” impact on life in the region “from the hurricane relief efforts of 2017 and 2019 to the significant drugs interception in 2020.
He continued: “I know Mounts Bay will be sorely missed by many. The many varied personnel from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Logistics Corps who have embarked over the period have displayed true professionalism, compassion and hard work in everything they have been asked to do, ably assisted by our counterparts in the US Coastguard – this has been a truly joint effort.
The UKs enduring presence in support of the overseas territory’s in the region will continue with the arrival of the very-capable HMS Medway and, later in the year, RFA ships Argus and Tiderace.”