Shelter kits loaded

The UK Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s Wave
Ruler ship will leave Cayman on Wednesday with its hold filled with 2,000
emergency shelter kits it picked up in Cayman.

The Cayman Islands Red Cross staff
and volunteers worked into the small hours of Monday morning to prepare the
shelter kits to be loaded onto the ship, which is docked off the Jackson Point
fuel terminal in South Sound.

The kits are among 6,000 that were
bought by the UK’s Department of International Development and delivered to
Cayman late last month as part of a new agreement under which Cayman became the
hub for the storage and distribution of disaster relief supplies for British
Overseas Territories and other islands in the Caribbean that need help in the
event of a disaster.

“It was good practice for staff and
volunteers to pack up the supplies and get them ready for the ship,” said Red
Cross Disaster Manager Hemant Balgobin, adding that if the Wave Ruler has to return
during a crisis or disaster for more supplies, they will know what to expect.

Mr. Balgobin said staff and
volunteers prepared 33 pallets of emergency relief supplies in anticipation of
the arrival of the ship.

Their efforts on Sunday night and
early Monday were hampered by a thunderstorm and a broken-down forklift, but
ultimately, all the material was ready to be shipped to the Wave Ruler by the
time it arrived in Cayman on Monday, 16 August. It is scheduled to depart
Wednesday for Jamaica.

The Wave Ruler has been deployed to
the Caribbean to provide assistance during hurricane season and to tackle drug
trafficking in the region.

The remaining 4,000 kits will stay
in Cayman until and unless they are required somewhere in the region. If there
is a disaster in Cayman, those supplies can also be accessed locally, Mr.
Balgobin said.

Working out the logistics

Steve Freeman, assistant defence
attaché from the British High Commission in Jamaica, flew to Cayman to observe
the logistics of how the Red Cross delivered the supplies to the ship. He also
accompanied Mr. Balgobin on board the Wave Ruler on Monday afternoon where the
Red Cross disaster manager signed documents that detailed the supplies that had
been delivered to the ship.

“I’m here to see how all this works
with the Red Cross,” Mr. Freeman said.

If the supplies are not used by the
time the Wave Ruler leaves the region early next year, the ship will return
them to Cayman to be stored by the Red Cross until they are needed regionally
or locally.

Three months ago, the Red Cross
signed a memorandum of understanding with the Department of International
Development to store emergency supplies in Cayman.

Steve Moore, head of the Governor’s
Office in Cayman, said that previously, emergency supplies for the region were
sent from Dubai.

The ship’s captain, Nigel Budd,
speaking during a media tour of the Wave Ruler on Tuesday, said the emergency
kits had been added to supplies already on board, such as water containers,
timber, generators, and tools. The supplies handed over by the Red Cross
include tarps, tents, water purification tablets and other emergency equipment.

Staff aboard the ship were
scheduled to meet with McCleary Frederick, director of Hazard Management, on
Tuesday to discuss disaster preparedness and response in the Cayman Islands.

The Wave Ruler is one of two ships
– the other being the HMS Manchester – stationed by the UK in the Caribbean
region to respond to potential disasters.

The RFA ship is capable of
producing more than 100 tonnes a day of potable water on board the vessel
through a reverse osmosis process.

At a pinch, the ship can carry up
to 3,400 evacuees. “That would be for short distances and for a short amount of
time and in the most austere conditions,” Captain Budd said.

The Wave Ruler has come to the aid
of the Cayman Islands in the past, responding to both Hurricane Ivan in 2004
and Hurricane Paloma in 2008.

“Our main priority is disaster
relief. We will help not just the British Overseas Territories, but any other
islands that are struck,” the captain said.

The ship carries 80 civilian
British Royal Auxiliary seafarers and 10 legal enforcement detachment officers
and can accommodate 22 Royal Navy personnel when carrying a helicopter.

One of the vessel’s tasks is to
refuel and resupply Navy ships at sea, and it carries tanks of aviation fuel
and diesel on board.

TOPShelterkitsSTORY

Cayman Islands Red Cross Disaster Man-ager Hemant Balgobin, left, with Heather MacFarlane, third officer X, and Steve Freeman, assistant defence attache to the British High Commission in Jamaica on the deck of the RFA Wave Ruler, as emergency relief supplies are loaded onto the ship in Grand Cayman Monday.
Photo: Norma Connolly
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