15 September 2019

Following the devastation of Hurricane Dorian, relief efforts in the Bahamas are on the rise. Remarkably, six different types of Damen-designed ships are among the forces coming to aid. Two vessels from the Royal Netherlands Navy and British naval vessel RFA Mounts Bay have joined the vessels of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) to assist in the work.

HNLMS Johan de Witt and HNLMS Snellius were already in the Caribbean due to a large Caribbean Coast emergency relief exercise, allowing them to quickly respond to the aid request issued through the Caribbean Emergency Management Agency. Constructed at Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding yard, both vessels are well equipped to lend support to the relief work.

Commissioned in 2007, Johan de Witt is an amphibious transport ship equipped with two Cougar transport helicopters, four landing craft and two FRISC launches. It has a large deck for vehicles and relief supplies, army medical personnel, and an internal dock for smaller craft. Also on board is a unit of marines, an army unit specialised in civil-military operations, military engineers, and two teams of specialist divers. Snellius, commissioned in 2003, is a hydrographic survey vessel carrying advanced sonar equipment, allowing it to conduct a sonar survey of the area’s coastal waters and help draw up sea charts and maps. Johan de Witt and Snellius joined Mounts Bay – also a vessel built to a Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding design – in the Bahamas yesterday.

landing platform dock enforcer 'johan de witt'

HNLMS Johan de Witt

The naval vessels support a cohort of ships constructed in 2014 as part of the Sandy Bottom Project, an order commissioned by the RBDF and fulfilled by Damen. The RBDF works alongside the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) for the provision of disaster relief. NEMA has warehouses throughout the country stocked with food, fuels and equipment, ready for events like Hurricane Dorian.

The RBDF has an active history of dealing with hurricanes, including Hurricane Joaquin in 2015. One of the most significant issues during that event was the storm surge; airfields were inundated with water, leading to difficulties in distributing relief even after the worst of the weather had passed. When the storm hits, the capability to get these materials rapidly from standby and into action is critical, and in such cases, it helps to be waterborne.

damen stan patrol 4207 'rolly gray'

Damen Stan Patrol 4207 Rolly Gray

As part of the Sandy Bottom Project, the RBDF commissioned a RoRo 5612 vessel, designed specifically with hurricane relief in mind. The vessel is a dedicated roll-on, roll-off landing craft (a Damen Stan Lander 5612) fitted with a 25 tonne crane and a demountable disaster relief centre. Special containers on-board provide emergency relief, medical facilities, desalinated water and sanitary equipment, which is rapidly deployed in the event of natural disasters. The commission required installation of an on-board disaster package featuring modular containers hosting a field kitchen, emergency power generators, first-aid station, drinking water treatment facilities and tools for carrying out repairs. When not in use, the containers are unloaded to free up deck space for other operations.

containers damen

RoRo 5612 has on board disaster package, featuring modular containers hosting a field kitchen, emergency power generators, first-aid station, drinking water treatment facilities and tools for carrying out repairs. The containers can easily be placed on board the vessel for transportation and unloaded when they are not required, freeing up deck space for other operations.

The RoRo 5612 will be central to emergency aid work as a base from which immediate relief packages can be provided to those in need. Meanwhile, the RBDF’s Stan Patrol vessels can be used to reach victims that are otherwise cut off or stranded in precarious locations. With shallow draughts and stable hulls, the Stan Patrol vessels can operate safely at speeds of over 20 knots, so are ideal for quick response. The design includes a recess in the aft ship to accommodate a rigid inflatable boat (RIB), which is able to make speeds of over 30 knots. The mobility and range of these vessels will provide the speed of response necessary to make relief work a success.

damen roro 5612

Damen RoRo 5612

Two further key components in the Sandy Bottom project were to ensure the vessels were highly manoeuvrable in shallow waters (the word ‘Bahamas’ comes from the Spanish ‘Baja Mas’, meaning ‘shallow waters’) and to provide vessels with the capacity to transport groups of people. Both of these features will aid in the relief efforts now underway in the Bahamas.

The response at this time is critical; tens of thousands of people remain in need of aid, as thousands of homes were severely damaged or destroyed and parts of the Bahamas received up to 89 centimetres of rain, leaving vast areas flooded.

Hurricane Dorian equalled the highest winds ever recorded for a hurricane at landfall when it struck the Abaco Islands. Large areas were devastated on the Abacos and on Grand Bahama. Aid and government officials say about 5,000 people have been evacuated from the two hardest hit island groups, but there is much work yet to be done.

Government agencies, including the US Coast Guard, NGOs, other relief organisations, and even the luxury cruise industry (including Bahamas Paradise joined Royal Caribbean, Disney, Norwegian and Carnival and other cruise companies) are responding to the disaster and helping people in need.

If you would like to support the efforts underway, among the most reputable and trusted partners to donate to are The Bahamas Red Cross Society and National Association of the Bahamas. You can also consult a more comprehensive list of aid organisations at work.


'HNLMS Johan de Witt'
Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding
Hydrographic survey vessel
Stan Patrol 4207 'Rolly Gray'
Stan Lander 5612
Stan Patrol
Disaster relief centre
The Bahamas Red Cross Society
National Association of the Bahamas
Aid organisations


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