Chilean replenishment ship trains with RCN

For 40 days, Chilean replenishment ship AO-52 Almirante Montt will be conducting at-sea training with Pacific Fleet sailors to prepare for the arrival of Canada’s new Queenston-class supply ships.

Partnering with Montt are HMC Ships Vancouver and Calgary, which will practice Replenishment-at-Sea (RAS) operations.

The collaboration was formalized by a Mutual Logistic Support Arrangement (MLSA) between the Chilean Navy and Royal Canadian Navy following Vice-Admiral Mark Norman’s 2014 announcement that the Protecteur-class supply ships would be retired.

“This is a particularly significant moment for the navy because we’re finding a new and alternative method to maintain a core skills set and we’re doing it with the help of our allies,” says Vancouver’s Commanding Officer Cdr Clive Butler. “It speaks to what we can achieve through collaboration.”

Two waves of sailors, mostly boatswains, from CFB Esquimalt will be on board Montt throughout the summer for a few weeks at a time. While the Canadians are on board, Chilean Navy personnel will provide instruction and review on operating the RAS vessel. They will conduct practice RAS operations daily, with the majority carried out off the west coast of Vancouver Island.

The RAS operations involve maneuvering two ships alongside each other at a range of 50 yards, passing lines between the vessels, allowing for the transfer of fuel or other loads, including ammunition, food and water.

“So far, we’ve practiced night fueling, day fueling and one two-point RAS operation, which means transferring both fuel and solid stores,” says Cdr Butler. “We’re getting the opportunity to practice this on a regular basis in a way we haven’t been able to without the tanker [the former HMCS Protecteur].”

Protecteur, the west coast fleet’s only supply ship, was taken out of service after a debilitating engine room fire during its transit back to Victoria from Hawaii last summer.

Safety procedures related to RAS operations and use of equipment needed for the operation to function smoothly will also be reviewed on board Montt.

Cdr Butler says that the operation has faced no challenges so far. Even the anticipated language barrier has been negated since most Chilean personnel speak English.

“We have a history of working with the Chilean Navy” he says, “so we are using established connections to strengthen valuable expertise in the RCN.”

Rachel Lallouz, Staff Writer

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