Old friends reunite in the Middle East Area of Operations

Published on SBLT Rachel Jones (author), LSA Corey Wright (photographer)

Topic(s): Operation SLIPPER, HMAS Newcastle (F06), Replenishment at Sea (RAS)

HMAS Newcastle and RFA Fort Victoria conducting a Replenishment at Sea evolution in the Middle East. (photo: LS Corey Wright)
HMAS Newcastle and RFA Fort Victoria conducting a Replenishment at Sea evolution in the Middle East.

On 13 August in the Arabian Sea, HMAS Newcastle reaffirmed an old friendship with the British replenishment ship, RFA Fort Victoria.

In May, Newcastle’s first Replenishment at Sea (RAS) in the Middle Eastern Area of Operations (MEAO) was with Fort Victoria and the ships met again in August, marking the start of the second half of Newcastle’s Operation SLIPPER deployment.

This was Newcastle’s first RAS since completing the Ship’s Maintenance Period (SMP) in Dubai, UAE. The efforts of the SMP were clearly evident in photos of the ship taken from her embarked helicopter, which show Newcastle looking refreshed after significant upper deck maintenance and painting.

With the ship having recently received promotional stickers for the upcoming International Fleet Review, the RAS provided the opportunity to ‘zap’ Fort Victoria’s fuelling nozzle to help promote the event which will occur in Newcastle’s home port of Sydney before she returns.

Working with the dump party was Able Seaman Boatswains Mate Shane Cording. He got ‘up close and personal’ with the hose.

“I was given an International Fleet Review sticker, I guess because we will all miss the event. So when the nozzle was safely secured, I put an IFR sticker on Fort Victoria’s fuelling probe before we started pumping. It will give them something to remember us by,” he said.

Members of the Ship’s Maritime Logistics Department were also involved in Newcastle’s RAS, by hauling on the hose line.

Able Seaman Maritime Logistics Steward John Baguio found the evolution a good way to get back into the swing of things.

“Even though it is hot, it’s still enjoyable to get out there and get involved. While the RAS was going on we also had flying evolutions transferring people from one ship to the other; it was all happening,” he said.

Able Seaman Communications and Information Systems sailor Carissa Andrews was on headset on Newcastle’s bridge and communicating with Fort Victoria during the RAS.

“I love hearing different accents and this deployment has bought many of those. Newcastle has done quite a few RAS evolutions now, but this was the first I was involved with. It’s always more exciting when you have never done it before,” she said.

Petty Officer Marine Technician Reuben Matthias was on the upper decks as part of the fuelling party, which saw almost 300,000 litres of diesel transferred to Newcastle’s fuel tanks from Fort Victoria.

“Even though it is quite hot, the breeze is nice and it’s a nice change from the engine room. Communications go through to the control centre and everyone is kept in the loop with the fuelling status.”

Sub Lieutenant Mathew Stobo, one of Newcastle’s Officers of the Watch (OOW) said that there were dolphins on Fort Victoria’s bow during the RAS.

“Being part of the bridge team, we need to ensure not only our safety during the RAS, but also ensure that we don’t endanger the environment, including aquatic creatures; all was fine today and the dolphins had fun surfing Fort Victoria’s bow wave,” he said.

Due to the complexity of a RAS and the many concurrent activities, there is always the potential for mishap, such as a parted line, a burst hose or personal injury. These risks are mitigated through pre-activity briefings, close supervision and meticulous maintenance of equipment. During a RAS there is always a member of the ship’s medical team close by and Able Seaman Medic Lauren Nicholl was on duty for this RAS.

“It’s always nice to get outside and make sure that everything and everyone is safe. A RAS can be a very dangerous evolution and I am here to make sure aid can be given straight away if the situation arises.”

HMAS Newcastle is deployed to the MEAO as part of Operation SLIPPER, the Australian Defence Force contribution to the international campaign against terrorism, smuggling and piracy in the Gulf of Aden, and for enhancing regional maritime security and engagement.

Her current deployment is the 55th rotation of an Australian warship to the MEAO since 1990.

Imagery is available on the Royal Australian Navy Media Library at http://images.navy.gov.au/S20131145.