Disaster relief teams leave Mounts Bay as ship readies for counter-drugs mission

BRITAIN’S permanent naval presence in the Caribbean has waved goodbye to its rescuers – as they prepare to tackle international drug runners.

RFA Mounts Bay is on a long-term mission assisting Britain’s overseas territories in the region, spending roughly one half of the year ready to respond to natural disasters (chiefly hurricanes and tropical storms), the other half working with US law enforcement agencies dedicated to stopping the flow of illegal drugs from South to North America – and the wider world.

 

Embarked throughout the relief mission phase of her deployment (May-June onwards until the end of the year) is a mixed military team of Army engineers, Royal Marines, soldiers who operate the Mexeflote powered raft and a Wildcat helicopter flight from 815 Naval Air Squadron.

 

Collectively, they form the ship’s dedicated Humanitarian and Disaster Relief (HADR) Troop – over 120 men and women – who work side-by-side with authorities across the Caribbean to explain what help they can offer… and see what facilities are available to them should the worst happen.

The ethos of ‘Team Mounts’ brought all the elements of the embarked forces together – many took on additional responsibilities as part of the ship’s team, including tasks such as welding, as well as bolstering the first aid party and taking part in gunnery exercises.

Capt Kevin Rimell RFA, Mounts Bay’s Commanding Officer

The ship and her team were only called upon once during the 2019 hurricane season, helping the people of the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian barrelled its way through the islands.

 

The bulk of the troop left the ship in Willemstad, Curacao, where Mounts Bay underwent her end-of-year overhaul ready for operations with the US Coast Guard and their Law Enforcement DETachment (LEDET) who carry out boardings of any suspicious vessels the auxiliary comes across on her patrols.

 

Capt Kevin Rimell RFA, Mounts Bay’s Commanding Officer, said the ship was sorry to see most of the troops – maintenance teams have remained on board – depart.

 

“The ethos of ‘Team Mounts’ brought all the elements of the embarked forces together – many took on additional responsibilities as part of the ship’s team, including tasks such as welding, as well as bolstering the first aid party and taking part in gunnery exercises,” he explained.

 

“This level of integration paid dividends when the ship was called upon to deliver aid to the stricken inhabitants of the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian. All the parties worked tirelessly, hand-in-hand, to provide the much-needed assistance.”

 

Mounts Bay is due to be relieved in the Caribbean later this year by new patrol ship HMS Medway as part of the Royal Navy’s new ‘forward presence’ initiative, permanently deploying ships in regions around the globe key to the UK’s interests.