As you’re driving down the road, across town or even across the country, do you wonder when you will next get a chance to buy gas, and maybe a snack? Count yourself lucky you’re in a car. If you were driving a warship, you would face that problem on a much grander scale. Ships that have to stay at sea for extended periods must find a way to restock everything ship and crew consume — from peanut butter to engine parts to fuel.
It’s called “replenishment at sea” — abbreviated RAS (pronounced “razz”) — and the commodity most often replenished this way is fuel. When a ship such as Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Regina refuels at sea, the crew aligns it beside a replenishment ship (called a tanker). As the two ships keep station, cruising along side by side, the two crews rig a span wire to connect them. Then the tanker crew uses the span wire to send a fuel hose fitted with the right kind of nozzle to the receiving ship. The crew of the receiving ship catch the nozzle of the fuel hose and attach it to their inlet pipe. When everything is firmly connected, the fuel starts to flow. Imagine trying to fill up your car from a tanker truck while both you and the truck driver keep going down the highway, side by side.
Since leaving Esquimalt July 3, 2012, Regina has replenished at sea more than a dozen times, taking fuel from American and British naval tankers. From initial planning to completion, each RAS requires a high degree of cooperation between the two ships’ companies, and among the various departments
of each crew. The Combat Department is responsible for precision ship-handling. The Deck Department delivers expert seamanship in tasks such as rigging the span wire. The Combat Systems
Engineering Department keeps all the communication equipment in top shape, and the Marine Systems Engineering Department monitors the entire fuelling operation.
Regina is currently serving as part of Combined Task Force 150, conducting maritime security and counter-terrorism operations in the Arabian Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean. This area of responsibility comprises about 2.5 million square miles of ocean and encompasses some of the world’s most important shipping lanes.
Written by SLt Natalie York, Assistant Marine Systems Engineer, HMCS Regina