UK: HMS Protector Visits Dartmouth for First Time

HMS Protector Visits Dartmouth for First Time

The Antarctic survey vessel made her debut at Dartmouth as part of her first experience of Operational Sea Training, readying her for impending inaugural deployment to the frozen continent.

Protector has been loaned to the Navy; the former MV Polarbjørn – Polar Bear – has been ‘navified’ with all the relevant equipment, sensors, systems and fixtures to turn the icebreaker and oil rig support vessel into one of Her Majesty’s Ships.

The last act of turning a civvy ship into a Royal Navy vessel is OST in the hands of the Flag Officer Sea Training organisation who assess the ability of the 88-strong ship’s company to deal with any trials and tribulations operating around Antarctica might throw at them.

And at least some of the duties the sailors will be expected to perform when Protector deploys imminently is flying the flag for the UK, hosting dignitaries and members of the public.

Hence the weekend in Dartmouth, where the Commanding Officer of Britannia Royal Naval College, Cdre Simon Williams, was among the VIPs, as were the Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers, one of the new patrol ship’s affiliates.

They were treated to a ‘capability demonstration’ of fire-fighting, man (well, dummy) overboard exercise, sea boat drills and a very thorough tour of the 5,000-tonne vessel.

FOST staff ensured there was added realism to proceedings by invoking a flooding exercise during the demonstration to give guests an idea of how the men and women of Protector would react should such an incident ever befall them.

At the same time, the ship’s new survey motor boat, James Caird IV, ranged up and down the River Dart to produce a comprehensive hydrographic survey of these waters.

The weekend in the shadow of the famous outline of the naval college, which has trained and educated officers since 1905, coincided with the national act of remembrance for Britain’s war dead.

And so it was that Protector provided personnel, led by Commanding Officer Capt Pete Sparkes, to join the people of Dartmouth at the town’s war memorial to pay their respects and lay a wreath to honour the sacrifices of those who have lain down their lives for their country.

After that the Protectors opened their gangway to visitors and hosted hundreds of members of the public from the mildly curious to serious ship enthusiasts.

All were impressed by the wide range of abilities the ship possesses – and wished the crew well on their first deployment to the Antarctic region.

“It was a fantastic weekend,”

Capt Sparkes enthused.

“Dartmouth is a very appreciative – and knowledgeable – maritime town. All ships are made to feel especially welcome here and Protector was no exception.”

Naval Today Staff, November 18, 2011; Image: royalnavy