‘WE NEED to look forward to the future’, the head of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary urged as he bid farewell to the force’s oldest vessel.
RFA Gold Rover made her final trip into Portsmouth yesterday ahead of her decommissioning next week.
The veteran vessel is the oldest serving ship in naval service, having supported the Senior Service for more than 43 years.
And as the distinguished tanker sailed past Portsmouth’s Round Tower, RFA chief, Commodore Duncan Lamb, said now was the time to look towards Gold Rover’s replacement.
He said: ‘We all do recognise that 43 years is a good watch to put in. It’s now time to look to the future.
‘This is a significant period in the history of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and perhaps a moment to reflect as we reach the end of the Rover class. It is also an opportunity to look to the future at the Tide-class ships.
‘These versatile and hugely-capable new vessels will significantly enhance the global operational output currently provided by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.’
During her eventful career, Gold Rover has supported drugs busts, humanitarian relief missions and sea rescues in addition to her core role of replenishing the Royal Navy’s fleet.
And she has replenished ships at sea 8,256 times since coming into service in 1974.
Captain Paul Minter started his career on Gold Rover in 1977, eventually becoming her commanding officer (CO) from 2007 to 2010.
He said: ‘It’s incredibly sad. I had some great times on there right the way through my career. She was an extremely busy ship.’
Captain Jonathan Huxley, Gold Rover’s last CO, added she was a ‘force for good’.
Gold Rover will be decommissioned on Monday, March 6. Her replacement, RFA Tidespring, will enter service later this year.