News: HMCS Protecteur, crew arrive safely at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam
Story by Staff Sgt. Chris Hubenthal
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii – Royal Canadian Navy auxiliary oil replenishing ship Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship Protecteur was towed by the U.S. Navy Fleet Ocean Tug USNS Sioux (T-ATF-175) into port here March 6, after experiencing an engine room fire last week.
U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112) was the first ship to arrive on scene immediately after the fire occurred and was put out by HMCS Protecteur’s crew late evening Feb. 27 through the early morning of Feb. 28.
Shortly after USS Michael Murphy’s arrival, USS Chosin (CG 65) and USNS Sioux (T-ATF-175) arrived on scene to provide further assistance. Nineteen family members and civilian contractors from HMCS Protecteur, as well as a Canadian sailor with a hand injury, were transferred to Michael Murphy for the return to Hawaii.
“There were roughly 298 people on board,” said Cmdr. Alan Harrigan, Royal Canadian Navy Maritime Forces Pacific Headquarters Personnel Coordination Centre Pacific officer in charge. “[Protecteur’s] primary job is to provide fleet support, oil and ammunition for ships underway. She was actually out here providing support to the U.S. Navy for the last several weeks.”
HMCS Protecteur was operating within U.S. 3rd Fleet’s Area of Responsibility, serving as the oil replenishment ship, assisting other ships operating within the area for the month of February. The fire occurred during the ship’s transit back to Esquimalt, British Columbia.
Upon USS Chosin’s arrival, Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 37 provided food and water and assisted with the transport of family members to USS Michael Murphy.
The USS Michael Murphy returned here with a group of Canadian civilians March 4, following recovery efforts of HMCS Protecteur.
“[Protecteur] family members are safe back in Pearl Harbor," said Cmdr. Corey Turner, USS Michael Murphy commanding officer. “We enjoyed having [them] aboard, and the crew really enjoyed their company.”
Sandy Cumming, a former U.S. Air Force officer who was aboard HMCS Protecteur during the incident, recalls, “It wasn’t just a little blaze, it was really bad. But the crew was calm, they made us calm, their training kicked in and it was wonderful.”
“When they got it all under control we were sitting in the middle of nowhere with absolutely no power,” Cumming said. “All of a sudden this [U.S.] ship shows up on the horizon and everyone’s morale just [improved].”
Royal Canadian Navy Commodore Bob Auchterlonie, Canadian Pacific Fleet commander, expressed his gratitude to the U.S. Navy, sailors, and ships for their efforts in assisting HMCS Protecteur.
“Throughout this emergency, the [Protecteur] received exceptional support from our U.S. allies,” Auchterlonie said. “I can’t thank them enough for the great job they did helping our sailors get back to port safely.”