Fort Victoria’s role in the busy and challenging inshore waters of the Aegean, conducting surveillance and SOLAS patrols, has yet again demonstrated the rapid deployability and versatility of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

Captain SJ Norris

Current Activities

Following the almost unprecedented rise in flow of war refugees and migrants from the Middle East, attempting to enter the EU from summer 2015, Fort Victoria was recently assigned to duties in the Eastern Mediterranean. 

For a vessel normally associated with her primary role of Replenishment at Sea and normally in open ocean, to operate in the relatively narrow confines of the Aegean has brought about a different mindset for the Command and Ships Company.

Additionally, Fort Victoria has embarked specialists with a variety of roles in the monitoring, surveillance and preparation for a response to any life threatening incident at sea.

Amongst the augmentees are Embarked Military Forces (Royal Marines), a Lynx Flight from 815 Sqn, Medical staff, Media experts, Interpreters, Border Force personnel, Intelligence Advisors, Specialist Searchers and a Royal Navy Police Senior Rating (RPO).

Strengths and Limitations

RFA Fort Victoria is normally most effectively employed in her primary role of replenishing warships on operations. This specific tasking in the Eastern Aegean in support of the NATO Task Group has presented many unique challenges.

Firstly, the nature of patrolling in restricted waters requires precise navigation and an increased situational awareness of additional hazards in the busy waters of a popular and attractive sea for yachting and other recreational activities.

Add to the mix the constant possibility of migrants attempting to cross from Turkey to a European Nation and the maritime and operational risks are increased substantially.

Having said that, as a well run and organised ship, Fort Victoria and her crew settled into the patrol mentality with impressive speed and calmness. 

Using a military mindset with a carefully planned Battle Rhythm with necessary briefings, operational directives and medium term patrol planning all being managed very comfortably, Fort Victoria has operated with the mindset that has led to highly successful and safe deterrent activities. 

When reflecting that Fort Victoria is over 203 m long and weighs in at around 31 000 tonnes, this is no mean achievement for the largest ship in the Naval Service on such a mission.

Personnel Embarked

In addition to the ship’s company, Ship’s Force Protection Element and Permanent Royal Navy detachment for the management and maintenance of weapon systems, Fort Victoria has also embarked specialists in military communications and information systems, aviation facilities and other operational roles. 

She is also the command platform for the Senior Naval Officer as part of the NATO Task Force.

Captain SJ Norris, the Commanding Officer of RFA Fort Victoria, commented, "Fort Victoria’s role in the busy and challenging inshore waters of the Aegean, conducting surveillance and SOLAS patrols, has yet again demonstrated the rapid deployability and versatility of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. 

“Re-rolling at short notice from our usual operating theatre of the Gulf, Fort Victoria has stepped up to provide a highly capable and versatile platform from which to launch this focussed operation.

"With an embarked boat group and Lynx aircraft, Fort Victoria has been a major force and significant contributor to this mission, gaining notable success.

"Fort Victoria's ships company has again gone that extra mile to support and engage in this important operation and can be justly proud of all their achievements.”