Replenishments at sea are the bread and butter of Royal Fleet Auxiliary operations but for tanker Tideforce recent trials saw them successfully refuel a commercial vessel.
She worked alongside MV Raleigh Fisher in Portland and across the south coast to see how an RFA tanker could provide a wider range of service to the commercial world and vice-versa.
Tideforce both gave fuel to the commercial ship and received it in the series of tests and maneuvers.
It comes as the Royal Navy is looking at developing replenishment operations between commercial tankers and RFA ships to sustain task groups and warships for even longer.
Prior to both operations, the crew of MV Raleigh Fisher were given invaluable instruction and advice from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary in the safety of RAS equipment.
Alongside Portland, the replenishment procedures were conducted in slow time with the crew getting to grips with military terminology and new equipment. As a result successful a series of dry hook ups were achieved and new skills developed.
Then while at sea, a series of approaches were conducted for both ships’ personnel to be confident in the approach. With both the Master of Raleigh Fisher and the Captain of Tideforce content, a gun line was passed, a jackstay and fueling hose connected.
Building on the success of the initial RAS trials, fuel was then passed from the MV Raleigh Fisher to RFA Tideforce, proving the concept of the capability. This also included an alteration of course and speed while connected.
While an early stage of the trials, it was a significant stepping stone towards greater collaboration with the British merchant fleet.
Captain Chris Clarke, Commanding Officer of Tideforce, said: “I last undertook such operations in 1982 during the Falklands campaign and I wondered whether the underpinning seamanship and navigational skills would be at a sufficient level to deliver this operation safely and successfully.
“And so what a privilege it has been for us to work with our fellow professional mariners on Raleigh Fisher. They have been so receptive to the work and dangers associated with replenishment operations at sea.
“For all of them this was a first and to have achieved so much, so quickly, is a testament to their dedication and drive to ensure they could deliver fuel safely whilst separated just 35 meters and underway.”