UPDATED w/ Governor’s comments.
RFA Argus, the floating hospital of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary arrived in Montserrat waters this morning.
The ship with a 100-bed medical complex on board left the UK on April 2, 2020 and was deployed to support the British Overseas Territories during the upcoming hurricane season. It will also be able to assist with the response to the Covid-19 pandemic if required.
The ship will be conducting a series of overflights of the island. Two helicopters, Merlin and Wildcat, are expected to be flying over the island today to familiarise the crew with Montserrat’s topography and to identify possible landing sites that could be used to deliver relief during the upcoming hurricane season, should it be needed. The helicopters will not land on the island and the ship’s crew will not disembark, in line with current COVID-19 border restrictions. RFA Argus will be leaving the Territory after conducting the reconnaissance flights and deploying to other Overseas Territories for similar preparatory activity but will remain in the region should support be needed, according to a statement from the Governor’s Office.
RFA Argus was deployed to the Caribbean at the start of April. Its deployment was originally planned as part of the UK’s hurricane preparedness support, but was brought forward to provide additional resilience to Overseas Territories in the Caribbean. While deployed RFA Argus will work in tandem with HMS Medway which was deployed to the region in March.
It carries hurricane-related supplies from the UK Government, such as water, ration packs, medical equipment and materials to repair damage and clear blocked roads, in the event that any of the Overseas Territories is affected by a hurricane. Any support or response will be conducted in close cooperation with the Territory’s authorities.
“I am very pleased that the RFA Argus is now in the region providing strong UK support to the Overseas Territories. Their presence serves as a reminder that as we battle COVID, we need to keep hurricane season at the back of our minds. RFA Argus stands ready to support us should the need arise,” Governor Andy Pearce said.
Minister of State for Defence Jeremy Quinn, responsible for the Overseas Territories, said: “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.
“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.”
“If required, a medical team could later join RFA Argus in the Caribbean to support the UK Government’s response to Covid-19 in the overseas territories,” a MoD spokesman said.
The RFA Argus last visited Montserrat in 2012.