UK welcomes RFA Proteus, Britain’s new dedicated underwater surveillance ship

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RFA Proteus alongside HMS Belfast in London, on Monday 9th October 2023, ahead of her Service of Dedication on Tuesday 10th October 2023. Photographer: Petty Officer Joel Rouse - UK MOD © Crown copyright 2023

The UK has a new ship dedicated to monitoring the ocean depths.

The UK has commemorated the arrival of Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Proteus, the country’s first ship dedicated to underwater surveillance, equipped with advanced capabilities and remotely-operated vehicles (ROVs) for seabed warfare operations.

Dedicated at a ceremony in the heart of the nation’s capital, RFA Proteus will serve as the launchpad for remotely operated vehicles and a home to a suite of specialist capabilities similar to those found in the oil and gas industries.

The ship, which will be operated by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary was formally dedicated on the Thames in the presence of the RFA Commodore-in Chief, Prince Edward, The Duke of Edinburgh, and businesswoman Akshata Murty, the wife of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who will be Proteus’ Sponsor throughout the ship’s active life.

The ship will be operated by RFA, the UK Royal Navy’s (RN’s) support arm, and was formally dedicated on 10 October.

The UK MoD committed to the purchase os the ship less than year ago as the first ship in its Multi-Role Ocean Surveillance (MROS) programme which includes plans for a second locally-built ship.

The ship was converted from the commercial vessel MV Topaz Tangaroa which was designed and built by Vard. It had previously conducted commercial subsea work, including surveys and operating ROVs. Since arriving at the Cammell Laird yard in Birkenhead in January, the 6,000t vessel has undergone conversion to fit for purpose.

HRH Prince Edward, The Duke of Edinburgh, and businesswoman Akshata Murty, the wife of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tour the ship ahead of the Service of Dedication. Photographer:
Cpl Tim Hammond – UK MOD © Crown copyright 2023

Commodore David Eagles, head of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, said:

“It is a huge honor and responsibility for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary to be charged with crewing and operating RFA Proteus and delivering her unique, sovereign capability in partnership and collaboration with our Royal Navy, Defence, and Government agency colleagues.”

Akshata Murty added:

It is a privilege to be the sponsor of RFA Proteus as she comes into service. The Royal Fleet Auxiliary are unsung heroes of our maritime security, and I am incredibly proud of all those who have worked on her to date, and all those who will serve on board in the years to come.

Crewed by 26 RFA officers and sailors, augmented by 60 Royal Navy specialists responsible for the undersea surveillance, survey and warfare systems, the ship will serve as a testbed for advancing science and technological development.

It is equipped with a flight deck and a 1000sqm cargo deck, plus a heavy-duty crane for lifting and lowering operations.

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