A Maritime Nation

Nimrod MRA4

I know I often lament the ‘we are an island’ mentality when used as a justification for CVF but we really are an island with a 7,500 odd mile coastline, an international obligation for search and rescue and all manner of offshore energy installations.

Although the strategy of deficit reduction would seem to most people to be entirely sensible one has to question the tactics and most of all the priorities that inform these tactics.

Maritime security is important, the UK depends on port and offshore facilities for much of our energy and trade needs.

This is serious stuff.

The deficit-reduction plan has reduced security around our coastline and dramatically increased risk.

SAR-H, we covered the SAR-H PFI collapse a few days ago, whilst the existing excellent service will continue this lack of coherence and a clear way forward will impact the service in the long term.

Emergency Towing Vessels, arguably one of the most inexplicable decisions the Department of Transport have announced that they will withdraw funding for the four Emergency Towing Vessels that cover UK waters. This was announced as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review last year but less than 2 days after the announcement, one of the vessels, the Anglian Prince was called upon the rescue the grounded HMS Astute.

The Herald is reporting that a report from the MCA highlighting the significant risk of such a move will be ignored in order to save the sum total of £12m per year.

Coastguard Stations Closure, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency has launched a consultation exercise for modernising its Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres, this modernisation will see the 18 existing centres reduced to 2. Overall staff numbers would fall from 596 today to 370 over a four year period.

Nimrod, with the withdrawal of Nimrod MR2 and the subsequent cancellation of Nimrod MRA4 the ability to mount long-range SAR coordination, is limited a capability provided by an ad-hoc collection of aircraft including the E3 Sentry and various C130’s, neither of which can in any way offer the level of capability offered by Nimrod.

Taken together, it would seem the current government are quite happy to take serious risks with maritime security and safety, it’s simply not good enough when we see daily announcements about the huge sums allocated to the EU, overseas aid and climate change initiatives.

To put the top hat on these capability reductions the UK has launched another consultation process, this time on how to treat oil spills. In light of the withdrawal of funding for the ETV’s perhaps we are admitting that a spill is inevitable because we can’t prevent it with a spot of emergency towing so let’s skip straight to the spill clean up.

The strategy might be fine but our tactics seem to be from the Colonel Blimp school of planning

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