Multipurpose RFA Argus docks in Port-of-Spain
...aids Caribbean during hurricane season
Sunday, September 2, 2012
The RFA Argus.
The Italian-built Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Argus arrived in Port-of-Spain on Wednesday morning. The vessel is part of the Royal Navy and was initially built as a container ship. Sunday Guardian was given a tour of the vessel, which houses a 100-bed medical facility. Public relations officer Surgeon Lt Tim Anderson said the RFA is a civilian-manned fleet. During times of war, the RFA Argus acted as a floating hospital with two full wards and mortuary. Anderson explained that the vessel offers full services. “This includes a four-bay operating theatre coupled with a ten-bed critical care unit, a 20-bed high dependency unit and a CT scanner.”
Anderson said the ship provides humanitarian aid and disaster-relief support to British overseas territories and other islands during the Caribbean hurricane season. During the stop in Port-of-Spain, crew members will be meeting with local law enforcement officials to cement security relations. The ship’s captain, Gerald A Patterson, said refurbishment of the vessel has surpassed $80 million and more than $50 million has been spent so far on the combat-ready facility. Patterson said while there was assistance from the United States Coast Guard for interduction exercises, the presence of their vessel on the seas aids in suppressing drug activity. Of major concern, he said, was human trafficking but suspected cases are complex due to the legalities involved. Sometimes persons consent to being trafficked and in such cases intervention is not possible.
“We can’t just enter the water saying we came to stop trafficking,” he said. If such a situation were to occur, an assessment will be done to determine whether people were in distress. Anderson said the trained crew will assist on-board the vessel, if the situation warrants such action. “We are fully trained for any eventuality of resistance,” Anderson said, noting that the ship is outfitted with weapons. Anderson said thankfully they have been spared such incidents. Apart from medical and drug interdiction, the RFA Argus also provides specialist aviation training facilities. With a flexible design,the ship can accommodate aviation training and can also be adapted to transport large amounts of equipment quickly in the event of an emergency.