An Offshore Problem

Offshore and nearshore infrastructure is becoming increasingly important, is the UK defence, policing and security infrastructure too fragmented to adequately protect them?

Only a few weeks ago, during the unseasonal cold spell, we saw how a less than 8 hour disruption to the Interconnector natural gas pipeline between the UK at Bacton and Belgium at Zeebrugge caused serious price fluctuation as the UK waited for a couple of LNG tankers to arrive at the Isle of Grain and Milford Haven.

The problems at the Interconnector were caused by a failure of a connection to a pump on the hot water system and a resultant shutdown. Other capacity reductions have been caused by planned preventative maintenance.

What the problem highlighted is the potential vulnerability of the UK to disruption caused at a small number of geographic locations.  Milford Haven has a couple of very large LNG terminals and the economics of operating LNG regasification infrastructure drives geographic concentration, hence concentration of risk.

Although the plans themselves are ‘huge’ and therefore have some considerable resistance to damage the jetty facilities are less so

"Mozah”, the world’s largest LNG vessel, arrived on its maiden visit to the South Hook LNG Terminal in Milford Haven, Wales, heralding a new era in the history of liquefied natural gas (LNG) transportation.
“Mozah”, the world’s largest LNG vessel, arrived on its maiden visit to the South Hook LNG Terminal in Milford Haven, Wales, heralding a new era in the history of liquefied natural gas (LNG) transportation.

It is not the plant that would be targeted, it is the jetty.

Conventional oil and gas pipelines are robust, well buried and very secure.

As the UK increases its reliance on offshore wind power their protection is also subject to consideration. As with LNG regasification plants, the economics and physics of offshore wind mean that they have to be clustered.

Offshore Wind Farm
Offshore Wind Farm
Offshore Wind Farm
Offshore Wind Farm

By virtue of their separation, these clusters are highly resilient. Each wind turbine is very tough and it would take some considerable effort to create a significant disruption.

However, distance, power efficiency and maintainability concerns mean that AC and DC substations are often placed above water, on platforms such as those shown below.

Offshore wind farm power components
Offshore wind farm power components
Offshore sub station
Offshore sub station
Offshore wind farm power cable schematic
Offshore wind farm power cable schematic

The huge 1GW London Array that will provide over half of the Government’s 15% renewable target by 2015 has two such sub stations, provided by Siemens, each containing a 180MVA transformer and associated switchgear that aggregates the power from the turbines and steps it up from 33kV to 150kV before transmission to land.

Siemens Offshore Sub Station
Siemens Offshore Sub Station

All cables are buried and the four export cables terminate at Cleve Hill sub-station and connect to the National Grid from there.

Offshore power cable
Offshore power cable

The export cables from Nexans/JDR are of an interesting design, combining both power and fibre optics for control and telemetry. The image below is not from the London Array but is of a similar construction.

Offshore wind farm power cable
Offshore wind farm power cable

Buried cables and duplication from the four export cables provide a high degree of resilience to damage from fishing vessels.

However, the cables are typically buried between 0.5m and 3m deep and the two sub stations are obvious points of failure.

Despite this cable diversity they all land at a similar location and terminate at a single onshore sub station.

Given the size of some of the wind farms, should planning conditions include onshore diversity?

The UK is well blessed with undersea telecommunications cable diversity, as one would imagine.

TeleGeography produce an excellent map of submarine telecommunications cables, click here to view and an interactive version here

Submarine Cable Map
Submarine Cable Map
Submarine Cable Map
Submarine Cable Map

Submarine cables do sometimes get damaged from fishing vessels and a recent incident in Egypt demonstrates how they can be vulnerable to malicious damage.

The SMW4 maritime cable was cut at 8 am around 750 meters north of Alexandria, which slowed internet service in Egypt and other countries.

But industry officials said they were hard at work to get services up and running.

“[Internet services] will be back 100 percent on Thursday morning,” he said. “We are using alternative feeds.”

Finally, as the offshore hydrocarbon industry moves increasingly towards underwater compression infrastructure the traditional oil and gas platform may become a thing of the past.

Shell are currently trialling a subsea compressor in their Ormen Lange gas field off Norway. This facility requires power from the shore, another subsea cable requirement. Perhaps future production facilities around the Falkland Islands will not look like what we expect at all.

There is an increasing financial and strategic reliance on ‘offshore’ infrastructure; be that gas, telecommunications, hydrocarbons or power and the deployed infrastructure has multiple risk concentration points.

The UK offshore environment is a very complex subject, informed by a number of national and international laws and conventions. Broadly speaking it is divided into 4 areas, internal waters, territorial sea, EEZ and continental shelf.

Other states have many rights within this area such as innocent passage and in some regards the UK has relatively little legislative jurisdiction, fishing for example. A number of international conventions also complicate matters, the OSPAR Convention on waste dumping for example.


Devolution of power to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales also contribute to the patchwork of legislation that governs the UK EEZ.

British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies that are not part of the EU, such as the South Atlantic, also have EEZ’s. Combined, the UK has an enormous EEZ, the fifth largest in the world at over 6.8 million square kilometres.

UK Territorial Waters
UK Territorial Waters

Unlike some military capabilities there is a veritable menagerie of interested parties, the MoD, Maritime and Coastguard Agency, DEFRA, devolved administrations, EU, various police services and agencies, security services and the UK Border Agency amongst others.

Also to be taken into consideration is the UK’s increasing cooperation with France, India, Brazil, the USA and Japan, whilst not direct stakeholders they all have a direct or indirect interest.

The UK has recently established a single National Maritime Information Centre at Northwood as a single point of contact and information fusion, analysis and dissemination but without a range of assets it is difficult to see its potential maximised.

Maritime security is managed by the Maritime Security Oversight Group

The 2010 SDSR recognised that no single body could or should be responsible for maritime security so the establishment of NMIC was a good move, at least it would provide some measure of coordination.

There is still duplication though with overlapping surface and aircraft provision across the numerous interested parties.

As resources continue to be pressed, low profile but vital functions such as MSOG and NMIC are likely to be starved of funding undoing much of their good work and ensuring they fail to achieve their potential.

The cancellation of Nimrod has also seriously impacted on this requirement.

Does the UK, with its diverse range of interested parties, have a sufficient handle on the security implications of this increasingly critical offshore infrastructure?

Are the cross departmental structures and working arrangements in place but no resources to do anything?

What can the UK learn from the USA, Canada, Australia or Norway for example?

Does our regulatory and departmental diversity work against us?

Where does the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force fit in, would alternatives pull funding from defence?

These are complex and difficult issues but is it time for a cross departmental, single ‘Coastguard’ style organisation to be established, one that can adequately address a mission set as diverse as rescuing errant day trippers, protecting offshore infrastructure from terrorists and dealing with pollution from underwater compressors off the Falkland Islands whilst fending off Spanish incursions in the waters of Gibraltar?

Or is that the problem right there?

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David Bober
David Bober
April 7, 2013 10:51 pm

The control & security of littorals is a key requirement for the RN in the 21st century. New OPV (off-the-shelf River class from BAE), IPV (off-the-shelf Scimitar class from BAE) and SSK (similar in size/capability to German Type 212 or French Scorpène class) would be affordable.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
April 8, 2013 12:37 am

A very significant subject, and one not amenable to glib answers…my plan when I have more time is to work through NMIC Document and see if there is anything in it akin to an EEZ-by-EEZ Risk Assessment, and then take a more systematic look at the key questions through that prism.

My immediate response is that we need to start with an effective planning framework responding both to that Risk Assessment and any agreed objectives, especially with respect to the BOTs; in time, the answer may be different ships, possibly in different hands – but there looks to me to be a lot of work to do before taking any fixed view on that.

Keenly interested, and thus less Gloomy.

Angus McLellan
Angus McLellan
April 8, 2013 12:42 am

This would certainly pull funding and personnel from somewhere. Several somewheres come to mind: the UK Border Force, the RN’s patrol assets, DEFRA’s fisheries protection budget and several smaller pots of “environment” money, the MCA’s HeliSAR budget, the AAC’s Defenders and no doubt more besides. So there are a lot of resources out there which could be pulled together into a coastguardy, borderwatchy sort of thing, if there were the will to do so. But there’s the thing. I don’t think there is the will, or even the wish, to do so.

Given that creating this sort of agency means taking money and people from lots of different silos – at cabinet level, Home Office, MoD, DEFRA and DfT to start with – it’s a pretty big deal. No matter how much Mrs May must dread the next storm-in–teaspoon “immigration disaster” hitting the front pages, she’s still unlikely to be happy to lose any part of the Home Department empire. And that goes for everyone else involved too.

As it happens, I skimmed an interesting report by the Institute of Government on reorganisations recently – – and I have to say that this doesn’t sound like an easy one to do. The only way it could be a lot worse would be if it required the Treasury to give up some of their powers. AIUI, the easiest way for this to happen would be to ensure that, instead of a new agency going to an existing minister, a brand new cabinet-level post was created – that paper I linked to has some good stuff on the reasons why departments get reorganised. And no, “it’s logical!” really isn’t one of them.

So all you’d need would be for the man and the hour to meet. The (wo)man in question would be someone to whom the PM had to throw a cabinet seat-sized bone, and the auspicious hour would be any time that immigration paranoia was in the news. So any day with a Y in the name, at least for as long as the Mail and Express remain in business.

April 8, 2013 7:22 am

@TD: good thought provoking post which highlights an area that I feel is neglected by the UK government.

I can’t see how one organization can be responsible for everything offshore, but equally I do not feel the idea of a US style coast guard is the answer. There should be varying levels of security, though atthe high end must be the RN and RAF as they are the experts (and why the duplication? ). Perhaps a return of Coastal Command? :)

To me peeing around with a patrol ship in someone else’s EEZ is like Spain sending an armed infantry company uninvited to flag waive in Surrey. You wouldn’t send the old bill to sort it out…

April 8, 2013 7:59 am

Very thought provoking TD…

My view is that this “security” goes further than just our EEZ to protect things like the pipelines and cables that run across the Atlantic and because of this doesn’t really suit a coastguard and tends to blend with Naval and Air Force assets.

However there’s no reason why we can’t cost up the protection of the whole network and share on a pro-rata basis (somehow) the cost of both defending and maintaining this network with the International community. However, I’m sure that whatever will be “enough” for the UK and France will not be “enough” for the USA, for example… just like their view on our Olympic security :-(

When it comes to things like pollution I’m not entirely sure we can do anything without continuous satellite surveillance (maybe MPA around coasts and along pipe/cable runs) as wherever you choose to police will simply force the criminals into deeper water.

April 8, 2013 9:08 am

Given the drop in the threat to our domestic EEZ from large scale coneventional forces I think the RN and RAF are ill placed to take on this role. I really think its time for a US style Coast Guard all beit it a civilian one which can take over aspects from the service, DEFRA and UK BA. Gucci military capabilities like Frigates and MRA4 are useful for expiditionary warfare but far to expensive to deploy in the numbers required for our EEZ. If we ask the military to carry out these functions they will inevitabley want to use the budget to by top line stuff when its very much a second eleven solution that is required. The big question should be does this coast guard extend to BOT and should DFID and the FCO pay for it.

April 8, 2013 9:50 am

Good call Martin, I agree… at least for Home waters, a coast guard would be better. But for overseas, not sure.

Perhaps costs could be shared? Primarily FCO/DFID/DfT paid for, but with MoD taking a share too? As like the USCG has a support feature to the USN in times of need/national distress, HMCG could offer the same to the RN? For example extra sea experienced crews and vessels in-case a trip down down South is needed?

Very interesting article TD, another reason I like this site – the more bigger but less spoken about issues the UK faces.
With wind power, the old MoD concern regarding affect to radar should be mitigated with new construction materials being used that give the turbines a distinct radar return to easily discriminate between them and an aircraft/ship signature.

Though I think submerged sea turbines like seagen ( ) would be more efficient and less impact visually/radar wise… perhaps also an annoyance to any sneaking subs too :D
Though cant seem to find any development of types used out to sea, yet.

April 8, 2013 9:51 am

, disagree. The RAF and RN are best placed for this. MPA is an example where a high end asset can save money if implementated properly – would you want to train / maintain / pay for another specialist air service? The Rivers / Clydes are an example where lower end assets can be deployed to great effect.

BTO have to be part of the picture. They should also be formally part of the UK also…

April 8, 2013 9:59 am

“Offshore and nearshore infrastructure is becoming increasingly important (…)”

How this? The North Sea oil bonanza is nearing its end!?

“(…) is the UK defence, policing and security infrastructure too fragmented to adequately protect them?”
Against whom? The Russians? They would have gazillions of other problems to solve before they would bother with the British coasts.

April 8, 2013 12:00 pm

We are getting hung up on that word again aren’t we? There is no ISO standard for naming organisations or defining what they do. We all do things differently. For example, if where I lived was French my local bobby would be a military policeman. All you have to remember is that being British we do it the correct way…

The guarding of the coast in terms of physical security in the UK is performed by the RN. There would be little point in starting from scratch. And as much as I would like any future MPA to be flown by the FAA at home the RAF has all the infrastructure to make MPA happen. FWIW the USCG operates in all US overseas territories. IF civilian manned is truly cheaper than we have a government organisation that operates civilian vessels, the RFA. Note for what the A stands, auxiliary. Here often there are cries for assets, especially naval ones, to have a peacetime role. That the FP Squadron is at sea if there is a genuine security threat to the UK and spends 99% of its time performing “civilian” tasks seems to get over looked. We pay the majority of UK forces for that 1% moment.

I would like to see all the Rivers helicopter capable. I think Merlin capable with a hanger would be a little too much for which to hope. Even though it could double up perhaps as training asset. As I have said a zillion times here that Their Lordships procured the Rivers sans flight deck (-1) is a mystery. The Castles’ outstanding feature was that large flight deck. How much did “we” save? Even just having a clear area to winch from helps even if the flight deck is too small land upon. Bonkers. Another 2 River and 2 or 3 somethings about 1000 tons would be nice.

I don’t know about MPA. What would be the minimum to support CASD? Would we need 5 for the UK and 5 so we could deploy one elsewhere if needs be? Considering what is being defended we would need a full cream systems like P8. I don’t know about attrition and OCU. I suppose pilots under training could have time in the left seat on patrols and be trained on the job by pilot and co-pilot once they have their gained their lead in quals. It isn’t like these are single seat FJ is it? And perhaps 4 A400m and something like a 6 C295 just as simple patrol aircraft. We mustn’t forgot that HMC already has a fixed wing patrol aircraft. And we mustn’t forgot how much A400m and even C295 cost and then compare it to the cost of an OPV.

One more thought. Now SAR is going civilian what if “troops” have to be flown out to platform or a ship. Who will do that? Bristows?

As always Beddall covers it all in great detail,

ALL Politicians are the Same
ALL Politicians are the Same
April 8, 2013 12:03 pm


Plenty of oil left in the North sea and West Coast. Whether it becomes economically recoverable is the question. Alos wind farms and possibly tidal generators will become increasingly important.

As for “against whom”. Well anyone who wants to cause harm to the UK, thinks about this and can get a boat.

I must come down in the camp of the Coast guard supporters. We have gapped Fixed Wing SAR, are privatising Rotary Wing SAR, we have very few maritime assets, we have 5 cutters owned and operated by whoever the Home Secretary has put in charge this week. 3 River Class OPVs busy doing Fishery protection. The SFPA have I think 4 vessels. DEFRA and the SFPA have access to some fixed wing surveillance flights. The RN contributes where it can during transit and exercises.
Almost sounds impressive until you realise exactly how much coast and EEZ we have to look after.

April 8, 2013 1:10 pm


One notes you haven’t suggested any “force” levels. :)

I hadn’t thought about the former BA, former HMRC, cutters being orphaned.

@ All

As always in these discussions I offer up the Norwegian Coastguard as an example……

Interesting. In the 1970s the UK throws up its hands, says it can’t go on alone, and gives everything to the EU. The Norwegians having found a major resource off their shores establish a major naval force to protect their new found wealth. I won’t mention Norwegian fisheries policy or indeed the fisheries polices of Greenland and Iceland compared to the EU.
Interesting that the Danes are frequent visitors to our waters get a seat at any discussion on fisheries because of Greenland (the only country to leave the EU), but we British don’t because the EU speaks for us (supposedly) .

@ All 2

This is the sort of little ship which we need,

One for the Scottish islands, one for the Irish Sea, and one for the Channel.

April 8, 2013 5:37 pm

One service not mentioned was the Coastguard (MCA) itself. Had a nice little fleet of ocean going tugs stationed strategically around the UK, almost looking like a proper “Coastguard”, Key role was emergency towing which somewhat surprisingly in today’s health and safety world is no longer considered a need.

April 8, 2013 6:04 pm

Not difficult or complex the Royal Navy is in charge of protecting and safe guarding the sea lanes of these islands and territories so they stand up and take the lead. The others can offer advise and provide specialist teams but one organisation/person is in charge commander xxxx RN.

Long range patrol boats, king air aircraft for costal air survalliance chance to test some of our future commanders metal. If MRs T was in charge today Spain wouldn’t be pissing about at gib I think we can be sure of that.

ALL Politicians are the Same
ALL Politicians are the Same
April 8, 2013 6:36 pm

Ok, lets be revolutionary and have a UK EZC. Economic Zone Command. 2 Star Commander with 1 star subordinates in the South Atlantic, Gib and Cyprus. Assets can be chopped to the organisations OPCON as required and personnel assigned there should expect to do at least 25% of their time in 1 of the 3 “over seas” locations.
Budget comes from a variety of sources to stand organisation up and people like DEFRA specialists, oil and renewables experts come onboard as consultants. Assets are again purchased using a variety of different budgets to include some new Inshore Patrol Vessels perhaps 10.

Maybe something like this

Plus another 3 River Type OPvs with flight deck, based on the BAE 90M OPV. We will absorb the current 3 River Class OPVs and the 5 homeless Cutters as well as the SFPA vessels.

The new command will take responsibility for SAR within the EEZ both fixed and rotary wing. So lets be having 4 or 6 HC130 J as used by the USCG. For rotary wing SAR we will have the 3 AW 139 from the Coast Guard and run 2 large squadrons, one of AW139 and another of S92?.

Coastal Forces jumpers should be considered acceptable rig of the day and the growing of beards (male only) positively encouraged. A slightly less formal but professional atmosphere fostered.

What could go wrong?


I forgot, we must have UAVs, on the OPVs and from land and maybe some USVs and even an UUV if we can think what to use it for. Unmanned is so 2013.

John Hartley
John Hartley
April 8, 2013 6:49 pm

Well lack of Nimrod MPA, CSAR helicopters, motor gun/missile boats, cheap recycled weapon 110 metre light frigates, plus weak laws/rules of engagement, result in the seas around us only being guarded in part.
Americans are happy to arm civilians, while Britain has a fit of the vapours about that. US coastguard carry .40 calibre pistols. Will Bristows SAR pilots ever be issued arms? Thats the problem with privitisation.

April 8, 2013 7:00 pm

Gd effort apas change the name to the Home Fleet and deal done.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
April 8, 2013 7:54 pm

@apats – A masterly summary; could I suggest that it in the first instance it needs a Junior Minister and team (drawing on NMIC/MSOG) to define purpose, and establish some kind of cross departmental policy structure? Not sure where based; Defence, FCO, Trade and Industry all seem possible – or the Cabinet Office?

No keener than anyone else on the political class, but the system demands some sort of oversight.

And then a proper risk assessment to define year one objectives…

April 8, 2013 8:23 pm

I hate to be the party pooper, but where is all the money coming from to fund this?

ALL Politicians are the Same
ALL Politicians are the Same
April 8, 2013 8:43 pm

Chris B.

My post was semi tongue in cheek but if you were to look at setting something like that up then you would have to examine the tasks it covers and who pays for that asking currently. So the PFI SAR money, DEFRA FPS money, HMRC/BA/Who knows money that operates the cutters. Home Office money, SFPA budget. Of course there would have to be MOD money diverted as well but any such organisation would replace multiple current funding streams and as such raid many a “cookie jar”

April 8, 2013 9:46 pm


I’d love to see a proper UK coastguard. I just can’t see the government funding it, even if there is money to be taken from elsewhere.

April 9, 2013 12:44 am

@ x

“One more thought. Now SAR is going civilian what if “troops” have to be flown out to platform or a ship. Who will do that? Bristows?”

Had nothing to with SAR in the first place.

Aviation support would be provided by the Joint Special Force Aviation Wing, particularly the chinooks of No. 7 Squadron RAF. The Commando Helicopter Force’s training squadron, 848 NAS, apparently has a small flight providing specialist support for Maritime Counter Terrorism. There are people at Yeovilton who are responsible for looking after this.

See MV Nisha and an exercise carried out as long ago as 1976 for mechanics involved in the type of response you seem to be thinking about:

And as a bonus:

But before we get carried away: Terrorism is a crime, and in the UK the Home Office and/or Scottish Ministers have primacy in all criminal matters, which at an operational level usually means the Police – even offshore.

“Will Bristows SAR pilots ever be issued arms? Thats the problem with privitisation.”

How is that a problem? Why would they ever need arms?

And again, before people get carried away about taking over the DfT’s budget for helicopter SAR, consider that 68% of military SAR callouts last year occurred on Land, 20% were coastal (high water mark to 3 mile limit) and just 10% beyond that.

It’s the same with SFPA. Not only do they patrol the lion’s share of the UK fisheries, they come under the Scottish Government and Scots Law. There is zero prospect of them taking over the Fisheries Protection Squadron, let alone vice versa. It’s like suggesting the RNLI could be absorbed – when they have always declined government funding and thus control (mainly because they’re so well funded!).

Anyway, here’s a few items that could help inform the debate:

The Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order 1999

Emergency Preparedness Offshore Liaison (EPOL) Group

Preparing Scotland

April 9, 2013 3:43 am

How about something like this:

Get some civvie surveillance going (like Aust Coastwatch), and you’re in business.

(from the link)

Border Protection Command (BPC) was established by the Australian Government in March 2005 to coordinate national awareness and response efforts to protect Australia’s interests in the Australian Maritime Domain (AMD). *

BPC is a multi-agency taskforce which utilises assets assigned from Australian Customs and Border Protection Service and the Department of Defence to conduct civil maritime operations. BPC is not established under a specific statute. Assets assigned to BPC conduct law enforcement activities on behalf of other Australian Government agencies exercising powers under the Customs Act, Migration Act, and Fisheries Management Act.

BPC is the primary government law enforcement organisation in the AMD. The AMD includes predominantly the offshore areas within Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) but extends to the area bounded by Australia’s Security Forces Authority (SFA) zone. Border Protection Command is not a SAR organisation but its assets do respond to emergencies at sea in accordance with international obligations.

BPC works with officers from the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, and other Commonwealth, State and Territory agencies to deliver a coordinated national approach to Australia’s offshore maritime security.

BPC is a maritime law enforcement agency which, in concert with other government agencies and stakeholders, protects Australia’s national interest by generating awareness of illegal activity in Australia’s civil maritime domain across government and responding to mitigate, or eliminate, the risk posed by security threats.

BPC is responsible for coordinating and controlling operations to protect Australia’s national interests against the following maritime security threats:

Illegal exploitation of natural resources;
Illegal activity in protected areas;
Irregular maritime arrivals;
Prohibited imports/exports;
Maritime terrorism;
Piracy, robbery or violence at sea;
Compromise to bio-security; and
Marine pollution.

ALL Politicians are the Same
ALL Politicians are the Same
April 9, 2013 6:04 am


Terrorism is indeed a crime but having participated in 2 major offshore exercises ran at COBRA level in the noughties, the response is very much military. One simulated the hijacking of an rig in the N Sea and some details may have been leaked on the web.

The other the hijacking of a super yacht being used for Ministerial level discussions with a Middle eastern power which was done as a real time no warning reaction exercise.

On both occasions the “take down” was done by UKSF and the scene was not handed over to Special branch until the Military on scene Commander was happy. Indeed whilst it remained a Military Op the Police were not allowed into the Ops Room. Cue one very unhappy Special branch officer as I told him he could not come in.

April 9, 2013 11:10 am

Lewis said “Had nothing to with SAR in the first place.”

Never said it did. My point was simply their are military helicopters in Scotland now that won’t be there in the near future.


If you hi-jack a rig do you still have to demand that it gets flown to Cuba? Or do terrorists prefer other destinations these days?

April 9, 2013 12:50 pm

@TD: I’m not sure we should be particularly pleased that the world’s largest subsidy farm is now operational. Since we will have had to ensure there is enough gas-fired capacity to back it anyway, we will at least we assured of power provided the gas lasts. However, those subsidies will last forever :-(

John Hartley
John Hartley
April 9, 2013 5:32 pm

What if you get a Mumbai style rolling terrorist attack? Lots of calls for help, airlifting casualties to hospital, but terrorists still operating. Risky to send unarmed crews.

paul g
April 9, 2013 7:10 pm

I like to play spot the moving turbine when looking at the mass of wind farms from my window not that many!!

April 9, 2013 10:12 pm

@ John Hartley
So giving the aircrew a couple of SA-80s and side-arms, which they likely haven’t used since their last SH/CHF/Bagger operational deployment if they’re lucky, makes it somehow less risky to send a helicopter into a hot area? Particularly densely populated ones.

I’m not even sure the Special Forces flights would fly directly into the hot area (in a domestic UK context) and they’re experts at this sort of thing.

No, we have precedent for the use of military Search and Rescue in a dispersed lone gunman situation: the Cumbria shootings in June 2010.

The RAF and RN each sent a helicopter from Valley and Gannet. They weren’t armed AFAIK. They assisted the police helicopters in the search and the air ambulances in dealing with the casualties, remaining clear of danger just as their civilian counterparts did. Nothing they did that day couldn’t have been carried out by the Coastguard helicopters had it occured in or near their patch. And nothing that day would have been different if the aircrew had been armed.

Where does it end? Give London Ambulance Service FV104 Samaritans?

April 10, 2013 6:04 pm

This sort of thing doesn’t look cheap:

April 10, 2013 7:11 pm

And there goes Raytheons’ media budget for the next five years. Swish.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
April 10, 2013 8:15 pm

@ Lewis – You are quite right to point out that firearms for SAR crews are a red herring…but the extent to which the Bristow Contract covers “Aid to the Civil Power” (or might need to) or the cost of delivering a non-contract item in an emergency are real issues – would a Bristow Crew help a Police or military search for armed fugitives if they were the nearest available chopper and time was of the essence? Or give service personnel a lift if it was the quickest way to reinforce a “believed vulnerable” target?

All reasonable questions I think…

April 10, 2013 9:10 pm


Also moving personnel to or from “assets” (ours or somebody else’s) that may or not be somewhere perhaps……

I wonder if Bristow’s personnel will have to sign the Official Secrets Act?

Chuck Hill
April 12, 2013 1:30 am

In the USCG we feel one of our great advantages is the flexibility of the organization. The same asset may be doing SAR one day, working on an oil spill the next, intercepting illegal immmigrants, stopping drug traffickers, servicing an aid to navigation, or sighting a boater for unsafe practices on another, all the using the same asset.

And in Wartime we go to war. The USCG counts eleven missions:

Ports, waterways, and coastal security
Drug interdiction
Aids to navigation
Search and rescue
Living marine resources
Marine safety
Defense readiness
Migrant interdiction
Marine environmental protection
Ice operations
Other law enforcement

Obviously not everyone is expert in all fields, but We mix and match personnel with various backgrounds so that all the functions of a unit are covered.

This multifunctional nature does make it difficult for the CG to deal with the Washington Bureaucracy that tends to focus only on single tasks.

One reason the US has a Coast Guard is a long standing fear of the military enforcing laws. It has been codified in the concept we call Posse Comitatus.
The act was written to exclude the Army from from law enforcement but has been extended to all Department of Defense services, but while military the Coast Guard has been excluded. The UK does not seem to have those reservations.

If you could stabilize tours and allow some specialization in various Coast Guard mission areas, I don’t know why you couldn’t have a Coast Guard as a specialized service within the Navy.

Incidentally USCG helicopters does a lot of SAR over land as well at sea.

April 13, 2013 7:57 pm

In my opinion anything withing the 12 miles is a legal matter and we have a service for that – the police. Give them some bigger boats if necessary, and the crews can be partly police civilians or CPSO types.
Anything bigger than a launch should be RN. Doesnt the RN need the smaller ships to give officers command experience before letting them loose on anything dangerous? Is it possible to have RFA crews with RN officers?