It’s the height of summer, but crew of HMS Protector say “bring on the ice” as they’re ready for a return to frozen seas.
The Royal Navy’s sole polar research, survey and science ship has come through fire, flood, breakdowns and helicopter crashes – all scenarios testing her ship’s company so their ship is safe to operate thousands of miles from the UK.
Since returning from an extended polar/South Atlantic/southern Africa research/environmental/mapping mission back in the spring, the icebreaker has undergone an extensive overhaul in Middlesbrough’s Teesside Docks.
Extensive work has been carried out on the ship from maintenance, repairs and upgrades to engines, machinery and systems on board, and also a fresh lick of her signature red paint.
With the ship spending a few months in dry dock or berthed at a jetty, crew can become a little rusty.
So upon leaving Teesside commercial port, the ship’s company started a short but thorough training session to shake off the cobwebs… because when the icebreaker appeared off her home port of Plymouth, 32 experts and assessors from the RN’s FOST training organisation were waiting for her.
No ship can deploy or conduct operations without passing an assessment by the FOST team.
The package they ‘opened’ for Protector’s crew ranged from man overboard drills to navigational exercises, winching exercises, gunnery, fending off simulated surface attacks, coping with casualties, putting a stop to floods, and dowsing fires.
“Having not spent long in the Royal Navy this was definitely a learning and training experience – and a lot different and more challenging than when you undergo the basic sea survival course at HMS Raleigh and Excellent,” said the youngest sailor aboard Protector, 17-year-old hydrographic and meteorological specialist Able Seaman Mitch Goldstone.
“Under constant scrutiny by the staff, you have to be on your game constantly – ready for any incident they throw at you!”
Satisfied with how Mitch and his shipmates coped, the FOST team deemed HMS Protector ready to resume operations – although there’s a spot more training to come before she resumes her icy patrols.
“I am justifiably proud in what my team have achieved over the past month,” said Commander Adam Ballard, Protector’s second-in-command.
“There have been some extremely long days in getting the ship ready for sea, and then into a difficult training period with FOST.
“It’s only been made possible with the ship working together as a close-knit team.”