Freetown (AFP) - A British navy mission said it was nervous but ready "to see that Ebola is kicked out" as it arrived in Sierra Leone Thursday to treat victims of the deadly virus.
The RFA Argus was cheered by dockworkers and other vessels as it completed a 10-day voyage from southwest England to Freetown, the capital of its former colony.
"There was lots of anxiety from us as well as from our relatives and loved-ones about coming to Sierra Leone to fight the Ebola virus," Commander Ross Spooner, from Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, told AFP.
"We have taken all precautions and understood the situation. Berthing in Freetown today, the mood of the personnel is one of a desire to get started on the job and to see that Ebola is kicked out."
The civilian-staffed military medical support ship has brought materials to build medical units and help keep them supplied.
Some 80 medics and 80 marines are among the 350 people on board, bringing the total British deployment to fight Ebola in Sierra Leone to about 900 people.
It arrived with 32 pick-up trucks, three Merlin utility helicopters, air crew and engineers to provide transport and support to medical teams and aid workers, said Donal Brown, head of the British Ebola Task Force in Sierra Leone.
"Argus... will be in Sierra Leone as long as it is needed. We are here to help the government of Sierra Leone to get on top of Ebola, so we will be here until that happens," he told reporters at the Queen Elizabeth II quay.
Troops with landing craft will escort personnel ashore and protect teams deployed on the ground.
The ship is equipped as a "floating hospital" but Ebola patients will not be brought aboard, and any member of the ship's company thought to have come into contact with victims will be sent to treatment facilities onshore.
Britain is taking the international lead role in tackling Ebola in Sierra Leone due to its historic links. Sierra Leone gained independence from Britain in 1961.
A British army medical team arrived in Sierra Leone two weeks ago to work at a British-supported treatment centre.
"The government of Sierra Leone heartily welcomes the presence of RFA Argus on our shores. We are very pleased," said Palo Conteh, the head of the Sierra Leone government's Ebola response unit.