The Plymouth-based Royal Navy warship HMS Portland has refuelled from the veteran tanker Royal Fleet Auxiliary Gold Rover – the last time the tanker will do so.
The deployed frigate took fuel oil on board while still sailing off the west coast of Africa from the oldest ship still in naval service.
The 11,000-tonne support vessel is due to decommission in the UK next month – 43 years after first pumping of oil into the tanks of a Royal Navy warship. She’s the last of five Rover-class ships built for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary in the late 1960s/early 1970s.
Most of the ‘Rovers’ have spent the bulk of their time south of the Equator, providing fuel for RN vessels on patrol in the South Atlantic.
On her current deployment HMS Portland first operated in the Gulf and Indian Ocean. It was later in her patrol off South America, the Falklands, South Georgia, the island of Tristan da Cunha and finally West Africa, where she has been supported by all the way RFA Gold Rover.
In that time, 1,788 cubic metres of diesel oil (enough to fill a car’s tank more than 20,000 times) have been transferred from tanker to frigate at around 66p per litre – a total of £1.2m.
After the final top up, HMS Portland, which is coming to the end of a nine-month deployment, entered Freetown in Sierra Leone for a short visit visit. She returns to Devonport Naval Base this Spring.
Gold Rover’s age and changing maritime legislation means she will be retired on her return in favour of the first of the giant new Fleet tankers, RFA Tidespring, which has just begun her 16,000-mile journey from South Korea to the UK.