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Royal Fleet Auxiliary Replenishment Tanker On Five-Day Courtesy Call

25th August 2014
Royal Fleet Auxiliary Replenishment Tanker On Five-Day Courtesy Call

#RFAtanker – A UK tanker of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, RFA Gold Rover (A271) that has a supporting role in the Royal Naval, arrived into a foggy Dublin Bay to dock in the capital for a five-day courtesy visit, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The visit of RFA Gold Rover of 11,522 tonnes displacement coincides on this UK August Bank Holiday Monday and notably she is a rare visitor to an Irish port given that she is a member of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

Her visit follows another important large British naval caller when the Royal Navy's HMS Illustrious (R06) as previously reported on called to the capital in April 2013. This was to be the final visit to Dublin of the former air-craft carrier which during her call was scaled down to helicopter duties. She is to be decommissioned later this month.

The 140m (461ft) long RFA Gold Rover sailed from Loch Striven Oil Fuel Depot on the Scottish west coast and understood to be under the command of Commanding Officer Shaun Jones. The crew is made up of 16 officers and 31 ratings, totalling 60 crew members.

On arrival in Dublin Bay, RFA Gold Rover took a pilot from the cutter, Camac. When within the port’s channel fairway she was greeted by the ports pair of tugs, Beaufort and Shackleton which escorted her to the Deepwater Quay Berth or ‘Coal’ Quay along the south quays.

RFA Gold Rover is the longest serving 'Rover' class remaining in RFA service since her commissioning in 1974. In that first year, she participated in evacuation duties during the partition of Cyprus when Turkey invaded the island.

The 'Rover' class represent one of the most successful tankers designed by the UK Admiralty. They were all built by Swan Hunter Shipyard of Tyne and Wear. The primary roles are to replenish Royal Naval ships at sea with fuel, oil aviation fuel, fresh water in addition to supplying dry-cargo and refrigerated stores.

RFA Gold Rover's most recent major deployment was in the South Atlantic which saw her maintain warships kept on station at sea for a two-year timeframe which was completed in 2013.

During those two years, she totalled 91,860 nautical miles since leaving Portland, Dorset and her ports of call included Gran Canarias, Ascension, St Helena and South Africa. This saw her crew rack up 7,789 man-hours on watch while refuelling and restoring RN ships on patrol duties, with food, equipment, spares, medical supplies, water and other stocks.

In April of this year, the 40 year old tanker underwent a refit at Cammell Laird Shipbuilders and Repairers in Birkenhead, though as the eldest of the fleet, her days are numbered. The ageing 'Rover' and 'Leaf' class single-hulled tankers are to be replaced by new 'Tide' class newbuilds on order from a shipyard in the Far East.


Published in Naval Visits
Jehan Ashmore

About The Author

Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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Naval Visits focuses on forthcoming courtesy visits by foreign navies from our nearest neighbours, to navies from European Union and perhaps even those navies from far-flung distant shores.

In covering these Naval Visits, the range of nationality arising from these vessels can also be broad in terms of the variety of ships docking in our ports.

The list of naval ship types is long and they perform many tasks. These naval ships can include coastal patrol vessels, mine-sweepers, mine-hunters, frigates, destroyers, amphibious dock-landing vessels, helicopter-carriers, submarine support ships and the rarer sighting of submarines.

When Naval Visits are made, it is those that are open to the public to come on board, provide an excellent opportunity to demonstrate up close and personal, what these look like and what they can do and a chance to discuss with the crew.

It can make even more interesting for visitors when a flotilla arrives, particularly comprising an international fleet, adding to the sense of curiosity and adding a greater mix to the type of vessels boarded.

All of this makes Naval Visits a fascinating and intriguing insight into the role of navies from abroad, as they spend time in our ports, mostly for a weekend-long call, having completed exercises at sea.

These naval exercises can involve joint co-operation between other naval fleets off Ireland, in the approaches of the Atlantic, and way offshore of the coasts of western European countries.

In certain circumstances, Naval Visits involve vessels which are making repositioning voyages over long distances between continents, having completed a tour of duty in zones of conflict.

Joint naval fleet exercises bring an increased integration of navies within Europe and beyond. These exercises improve greater co-operation at EU level but also internationally, not just on a political front, but these exercises enable shared training skills in carrying out naval skills and also knowledge.

Naval Visits are also reciprocal, in that the Irish Naval Service, has over the decades, visited major gatherings overseas, while also carrying out specific operations on many fronts.

Ireland can, therefore, be represented through these ships that also act as floating ambassadorial platforms, supporting our national interests.

These interests are not exclusively political in terms of foreign policy, through humanitarian commitments, but are also to assist existing trade and tourism links and also develop further.

Equally important is our relationship with the Irish diaspora, and to share this sense of identity with the rest of the World.

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