Navy Tanker Visits Portland For Last Time

The Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship (RFA) Bayleaf is due into Portland Port, Dorset before retiring after a distinguished career.

The tanker, which travels the world keeping Royal Naval ships supplied with fuel, is visiting Portland (23rd March) until leaving for her last voyage serving under the RFA flag before being laid-up under the MOD savings.

The ship has been acting as the Arabian Gulf tanker in support of the Royal Navy and coalition warships conducting operations in the Middle East.  Her final voyage is from Portland to Devonport on Saturday (26th March). 

The ship, in common with her sister ships is commonly at sea for years at a time on patrol worldwide and embarked on her current tasking after completing a £9m refit at Cammell Lairds in Birkenhead and conducting basic operational sea training at Plymouth in 2009 under the command of Captain Charlie Simmons.

Since transiting Suez in the ship has been required to be at 60 minutes notice, day and night, to conduct replenishments (refuel) at sea with any of the Royal Navy or coalition warships within the Arabian Gulf and those in support of counter piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and wider Somali Basin.

During this deployment port visits were mainly restricted to Bahrain and Dubai, however the latter was affectionately given the honour of being a 'base port' by proxy. Patrols at sea were generally around six weeks long.

Over a career spanning 29 years RFA Bayleaf has sailed 1.4 million miles supporting ships worldwide, conducting over 5,000 replenishment serials.

She has supported UK and Coalition warships through the Falklands conflict, bothGulf wars, humanitarian operations and an unprecedented 12 years as the Arabian Gulf Ready Tanker. She has a long and proud service history and we, the final crew is honoured to be a part of her story.

The RFA Ensign will be lowered for the last time at sunset on 20 April 2011; a small function is planned to commemorate the faithful service of the ship and to honour the memory of all who have served to ensure that UK forces are properly supported throughout this uncertain world.

The present RFA Bayleaf is the third ship to bear the name. The first was launched 1893 in Belfast as MV Cevic. In October 1914 she was taken up from her life as a commercial ship by the Admiralty and converted into a dummy battle cruiser named HMS Queen Mary, serving in the Dummy Battleship Squadron until Sept 1915. She was then purchased by the Admiralty and converted into an oiler, renamed RFA Bayol in 1916 and finally named RFA Bayleaf in 1917. She remained RFA Bayleaf until sold in 1920.
The second RFA Bayleaf was Launched 28 October 1953 as the 'MV London Integrity' and entered service with the RFA in June 1959 to act as link in the sea train to supply warships worldwide. 

She served in the RFA for 14 years until she was returned to her owners on the expiry of her charter in 1973, thence taking up her original name. The highlight of her RFA career was the honour of being the first support tanker to refuel the Royal Yacht Britannia by the astern method.

The current RFA Bayleaf was laid down in Cammell Laird Yard, Birkenhead as the MV Hudson Sound.

She was launched as RFA Bayleaf  in October 1981 and entered service in 1982 and was immediately sent into the frontline when she sailed for Falklands on the 26 April 1982 in company with HMS Intrepid via Portland, Gibraltar and Ascension Island. 

She was awarded her Battle Honour for the Falklands Conflict in1985. 

After the Falklands conflict she commenced freighting operations from the Gulf in 1983 thence returning to the Gulf as part of the Armilla Patrol in August 1984, the first of many deployments to the region.

In 1986 RFA Bayleaf was called upon to rescue the crew of the Taiwanese Cargo Vessel MV Hwalie which sank 60 miles east of Hong Kong and refuelled the WW 2 battleship, USS MISSOURI, whilst on passage from Sydney to Melbourne. This was the first such serial by an RFA with an American battleship. 

Once again RFA BAYLEAF was called upon to go into action in 1991 when took part in the first Gulf War.  After 19 years of service in the RFA under charter, she was finally purchased instead of being chartered by the MOD in 2001.

In the years following her purchase RFA Bayleaf was again asked to assist a ship in distress rescuing the crew of the Guinean Cargo Ship MV Falcon in 2002 which sank in the Indian Ocean while on passage to Iraq with a cargo of sugar, subsequently landing the crew in Dubai.  The ships company raised £350 for the crew off the Falcon the crew having lost everything when the ship sank.

For third time in her career RFA Bayleaf deployed to the Second Gulf War, to support coalition forces in company with 13 other RFA`s.  She spent a total of 12 Years in the Gulf Region on the Armilla Patrol and then as the Arabian Gulf Ready Tanker.  The longest period she has spent East of Suez is eight years. By the time the Blue Ensign is lowered for the final time, RFA Bayleaf will have sailed approx 1.4 million nautical miles, equivalent to circumnavigating the globe 47 times.