The arrival into the Caribbean of Britain’s biggest in-service warship, dispatched to help with hurricane recovery efforts, has been branded “hugely significant”.
Loaded with more than 60 tonnes of aid, HMS Ocean’s cargo includes more than 5,000 hygiene kits, 500,000 water purification tablets and 10,000 buckets.
The helicopter carrier and amphibious assault ship was about to take on the role of Flagship to the Standing NATO Maritime Group in the Mediterranean when she was re-tasked to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
Poised to anchor in the waters of the British Virgin Islands early on Friday, Brigadier John Ridge, second in command at the UK Joint Task Force, said: “The arrival of HMS Ocean is hugely significant. It is bringing in about 60 tonnes of UK aid, that’s mostly building materials – that’s definitely the need we are facing now, on all three overseas territories. So that in itself is really, really important.
“The other thing it brings is a fleet of helicopters, so there’s nine coming in with Ocean, which is superb. The third thing it brings is an embarked force of about 200 personnel who we can use to reinforce efforts we are already doing.
“It is really good that we will now be able to bring something to each of those overseas territories and demonstrate that… the UK absolutely supports the overseas territories.”
HMS Ocean will also bring four landing craft into the recovery efforts mix, as well as 10 new 4×4 trucks which have been donated by the government of Gibraltar.
The Plymouth-based vessel, on top of the aid and equipment it is carrying, can produce 300 tonnes of drinking water and generate enough electricity to supply more than 8,000 homes.
Commanding officer Captain Rob Pedre has previously said the ship is “tailor made” for the humanitarian mission and can “get the aid precisely to where it is needed”.
The helicopters on board include two Chinooks, one Merlin MK2, three Merlin MK3 and three Wildcats.