Hurricane Dorian shows value of pre-positioned response assets

EODMU 2 leads MCM task group experiment aboard RFA Mounts Bay. Photo: UK MoD

Early response to the catastrophic damage inflicted upon the Bahamas, in early September, by Hurricane Dorian illustrated graphically the value of prepositioning naval and coast guard assets in areas prone to natural disasters.

By September 3, the 16,000- tonne landing ship Mounts Bay of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, the UK Royal Navy’s paramilitary support force, was off the Bahamas. The ship embarked Royal Bahamas Defence Force liaison officers, and launched its Wildcat helicopter on an aerial damage assessment mission, acquiring information vital to the planning of a major disaster response operation.

Mounts Bay has been pre-positioned in the Caribbean region since the beginning of the hurricane season, and is carrying humanitarian emergency relief stores.

The ships command and control facilities, spacious well deck and large helicopter flight deck, mean that the amphibious warfare vessel is well suited to disaster response duties.

The US Coast Guard, for its part, had positioned a flight of Clearwater, Florida, based Jayhawk helicopters on Andros Island in the Bahamas. The helicopters were carrying out medevac operations into Nassau within hours of Hurricane-force winds subsiding.

Pelikaan. Photo: Dick Langer / Wikipedia

Expected soon in the Bahamas is the Royal Netherlands Navy support ship Pelikaan, which is permanently based at Curacao in the Netherlands Antilles. This vessel is optimised for humanitarian emergency response missions.

According to recent reports, a relief flotilla of US Navy and Coast Guard assets, likely to include the hospital ship Comfort, which is already in the Caribbean region, will shortly be headed for the Bahamas.

Trevor Hollingsbee

Maritime security expert and columnist, Trevor Hollingsbee was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, Senior Superintendent with the Hong Kong Marine Police, Assistant Secretary for Security in the British Hong Kong Government Security Branch, and Intelligence Analyst in the UK Ministry of Defence. As an independent defence and security analyst he has had some 1,500 articles on maritime security, and geopolitical topics, published in a range of international journals and newspapers. He is an Associate Fellow of the Nautical Institute, and a past Vice-Chairman of the Institute’s Hong Kong branch.