Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel RFA Argus (A135) has set sail for the Caribbean in preparation to support the British Overseas Territories (BOTs) in the region.
RFA Argus’ deployment to the Caribbean had been scheduled for the hurricane season, but she will now be able to play a part in ensuring the UK Government is ready to support the Overseas Territories during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As Royal Navy sailors and Royal Marines continue to stand ready to assist the United Kingdom in its efforts to defeat the pandemic at home, the support ship left Devonport on April 2 to cross the Atlantic and head south for the Caribbean.
The ship’s commanding officer Captain Terence Barke said: “RFA Argus’ ship’s company, consisting of both Royal Fleet Auxiliary and Royal Navy personnel, will rise to this challenge. We understand that there are people in need in the UK Overseas Territories who require our support.”
“The Armed Forces are taking decisive and coordinated action both at home and overseas to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary have worked hard to ensure that RFA Argus is ready for the hurricane season in the Caribbean and now also able to support the UK’s Overseas Territories during the pandemic”, said Minister of State for Defence Jeremy Quinn, responsible for the Overseas Territories.
“The deployment of this ship is just one way the UK Government is supporting communities at home and overseas as together we face the biggest public health emergency in a generation.”
Onboard RFA Argus as she departs are Royal Marines, Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) and Royal Navy (RN) sailors and aviators from 815 Naval Air Squadron and 845 Naval Air Squadron based at RNAS Yeovilton. A medical team could later join Argus in the Caribbean to support the UK Government’s contribution to responding to COVID-19 in Overseas Territories.
Argus carries onboard stores equipped to react as the hurricane season approaches, including provisions of water and ration packs from the Department for International Development. She is also equipped with materials to repair damage and clear blocked roads in support of local emergency services.
RFA Argus (A135)
RFA Argus is a Primary Casualty Receiving Ship of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA). With a 100-bed medical complex onboard, she acts as a floating hospital during times of war.
Italian-built, Argus was formerly the container ship MV Contender Bezant. The ship was requisitioned in 1982 for service in the Falklands War and purchased outright in 1984 for use as an Aviation Training Ship, replacing RFA Engadine. After a four-year conversion at Harland and Wolff in Belfast, the ship entered RFA service in 1988.
In 1991, during the Gulf War, she was fitted with an extensive and fully functional hospital to assume the additional role of Primary Casualty Receiving Ship (PCRS). The ship is equipped with an intensive-care unit, and can provide medical x-ray and CT-scan services. In 2009, the PCRS role became the ship’s primary function.
As the ship is armed and is not painted in the required white with red crosses, the Geneva Convention prevents her from being officially classified as a hospital ship.
Argus is due to remain in service until 2024.