Spanish Replenishment Oiler ESPS Cantabria Demonstrates Her Versatility
The last two weeks of January have been a busy period for ESPS Cantabria (CMDR J.L. Nieto) and her embarked RAN DET. Having successfully navigated the Suez Canal, Cantabria entered the Gulf of Aden (GoA) area of operations.
Cantabria conducted Replenishment at Sea (RAS) activities in support of EUNAVFOR units deployed as part of CTF 465 conducting the European Union led OP ATALANTA which seeks to detect, prevent and repress acts of piracy within the GoA and Horn of Africa (HoA) region.
Cantabria‘s RAN DET personnel were treated to a brief glimpse of the shape of things to come when Cantabria‘s ARMADA counterpart, ESPS Mendez Nuñez (now two months into a four month deployment), took her opportunity to replenish with some much needed fuel and victuals direct her homeland, Spain.
In an impressive display of her integrated logistics capabilities, Cantabria, successfully completed a simultaneous dual RAS Liquids (L) and Stores (S) with Mendez Nuñez on her port side, and the French La Fayette class Frigate, FS Surcouf on her Starboard side.
Upon completion of RAS operations, Cantabria’s flight deck and logistics teams were put through their paces during the conduct of a thirteen pallet VERTREP consisting of stores and fresh supplies from Cantabria to Mendez Nuñez via “Toro 07”, Mendez Nuñez‘s embarked SH60B Seahawk. “Toro 07” concluded the evolution with a demonstration of the pilot’s aeronautical prowess, in the form of a spectacular fly past between both ships with meters to spare on either side.
With the spectre of piracy ever present, Cantabria remained in company with Mendez Nuñez who provided mutual protection for the next 32 Hours as both ships transited the Socotra Strait en-route to Cantabria‘s next replenishment commitment with the German Frigate, FGS Karlsruhe.
Early the next morning Cantabria demonstrated her flexibility and the outstanding attributes of her Level II Medical Reception Facility, by responding to a request from Mendez Nuñez for a MEDEVAC of one crew member requiring an X-ray examination. Cantabria again welcomed “Toro 07” on deck as the patient was adroitly whisked into the ship’s hospital for treatment by Cantabria’s embarked Medical Officer. Happily, the crew member was subsequently returned to Mendez Nuñez safe and well.
After rendezvousing with FGS Karlsruhe South East of Socotra Island in the Indian Ocean, Cantabria again performed her core role by delivering fuel to both ship’s via a RAS(L). Upon completion, Cantabria departed the area, but not before Mendez Nuñez had an opportunity to conduct a ‘throw off firing’, discharging her Five Inch Gun using Cantabria‘s bow as a point of reference. A fitting send off for Cantabria and her crew as they embark on their nine month deployment to the Great Southern Land.
LSCIS Kristal Moona stated that the throw off firing was the highlight of the passage through the GoA, she said after the fact ‘I knew that both ships had taken all possible precautions but there was always that sense of what if? I couldn’t help but squeeze the person next to me!’
After a tense transit through the HoA area of operations, the members of Cantabria’s combined crew and RAN DET, were afforded a short two day respite on the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) of Diego Garcia. Coinciding with Australia Day, Cantabria‘s arrival in Diego Garcia proved to be an auspicious occasion. RAN DET personnel could not help but celebrate their nation day, and took the opportunity to treat their Spanish hosts to some Antipodean Hospitality, by inviting their Spanish counterparts to an old fashioned game of beach cricket.
The transit from Diego Garcia to Australia will be the longest leg of the journey so far, spirits are high and the Spanish crew is very eager to find out what awaits them upon arrival to the other side of the world.
Naval Today Staff, February 4, 2013; Image: Australian Navy