USNS Rappahannock : NOT Enrica Lexie

USNS Rappahannock is a U.S. Navy fleet oiler operated by the Military Sealift Command (MSC) and manned by civilian mariners (CIVMARs).  Rappahannock was involved in an unfortunate incident in the Persian Gulf off the port of Jebel Ali yesterday.

Whereas many vessels have their security plan tested during preplanned drills, Rappahannock’s was tested under a real-world scenario where they were faced with an unidentified rapidly approaching small boat.  There will be armchair quarterbacking and investigations for the crew of Rappahannock, but at first blush, it appears that when faced with an unknown threat, the crew and security detail enacted their preplanned security procedures to good effect.  It is regrettable that those procedures brought about the injuries and deaths of innocent fishermen.  However, the potential outcome could have been equally deadly for the crew of Rappahannock if no action had been taken and there had been ill intent on the part of the skiff’s crew.

The following timeline was provided by the U.S. Naval Institute and brought to Madden Maritime’s attention by fellow alumni from N.Y. Maritime :

USNS Rappahannock Security Incident Timeline

This incident illustrates the very short period of time from the start of a security incident to its resolution when dealing with small fast boats – whether they are pirates, terrorists or innocent fishermen.  There is generally not time to formulate a plan of action, therefore bridge crew and security personnel must rely on preplanned and drilled scenarios.  Again, it is unfortunate that innocent people were killed or injured, but when a U.S. naval asset is confronted with a small unidentified boat approaching at high speed, NOT taking action would be almost unforgivable given the world’s current security climate.

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