CAPTAIN Simon Herbert, master of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Tidespring, had every reason to be proud of his fine vessel as he welcomed me aboard the RFA’s first MARS (Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability) Tide class tanker. Some industry pundits are criticising the government for building the four ships in South Korea and for the year long delay in delivery.

Tidespring is not your ordinary merchant ship though – she is part warship as well. From stem to stern the quality of workmanship is superb with impressive living accommodation, galley and state-of-the-art integrated bridge and engine room systems.

Walking around the ship with Simon it was plain to see the complexities surrounding the building of these four futuristic replenishment vessels.

Crossing the Atlantic the ship encountered heavy weather. “The ship performed admirably in a seaway maintaining 18 knots. She has a unique underwater hull configuration and behaves well at low speeds.” said Simon.

In the replenishment at sea (RAS) control room on the main deck the chief officer will control the deck side of the operation through banks of computers.

When fully operational Tidespring can pump up to 2,000 tonnes of fuel per hour to visiting warships including the latest Royal Navy aircraft carriers being built in Scotland. The 39,000-ton tanker can carry 19,000 cubic metres of fuel and 1,300 cubic metres of fresh water.

Normally during a RAS operation the Royal Navy vessel is in charge of the procedure.

Simon explained that the new MARS tankers would refuel the carriers on their port side.

“The carrier’s bridge tower is on the starboard side of the ship and their view of us is minimal. Therefore we will be in command of the RAS operation.” he said.

A native of Fraserburgh, Scotland 51-year-old Simon has commanded RFA’s Cardigan Bay and Lyme Bay in the past and is no stranger to Falmouth. He spent several months in South Korea assigned to Tidespring and took her sister ship Tiderace on exhaustive trials. His 32-year career with the RFA from cadet to captain has seen him in several war zones including Sierra Leone, the Gulf War and service off the former Yugoslavia.

Penryn man Brendan O’Flaherty is RFA Tidespring’s Logistics officer, in essence the hotel manager afloat. He served with Simon on RFA Wave Ruler in the Gulf in 2012 during which time the ship was also deployed on anti-piracy operations. Waving a large St Piran flag from the bridge deck when the tanker arrived Brendan said: “It was the proudest moment of my life coming into Falmouth in this ship.”

45-year-old Brendan, aged 45, who was educated at Penryn School took up a job in London before joining the RFA. 11 years ago. During his service Brendan has sailed on a majority of the RFA fleet including Wave Knight on a deployment to Libya to support HMS Liverpool in Operation Unified Protector, as part of the NATO Task Group enforcing embargo operations along the Libyan coast.