New Long Form Content – Joint Port Opening Capability – A Proposal

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A proposal to create a Joint UK Port Opening Capability in support of defence, disaster response and Overseas Development Assistance, exploiting and expanding existing areas of expertise and a capabilities.

There has been a great deal of speculation about the political and practical desirability of maintaining Overseas Development Aid (ODA) at 0.7% of GNI and whether DFiD budgets should be reallocated to ‘security’. It seems that the commitment to 0.7% of GNI will remain but there is further discussion about how it should be spent in a post Brexit ‘Global Britain’

This proposal is based on a couple of opinions; first, the changing nature or shorelines and ports, and increasing proliferation of access denial weapon systems means raises the barriers to entry for future amphibious operations. If we are honest with ourselves, the UK cannot afford to play with the USMC.

This means we need to think differently.

Part of that different thinking is the Strike Brigade concept, entering theatre at some distance from the area of operations and then, driving longer distances to it.

This places a greater emphasis on ports, exploiting existing ports or bringing our own.

Link this with the building stability agenda and Overseas Defence Engagement brings another budget into our orbit.

My second opinion is that there is no way the UK can use ODA/DFiD funding and budgets for amphibious combat systems, but port repair and augmentation is a perfect example of a capability that sits underneath the wholly combat oriented level, but still has defence utility.

The definition of ‘dual use’

I therefore propose to fund this capability using budgets from both the MoD and DFiD.

With that in mind, this is a proposal for a ‘dual use’ capability, in 45,695 words


Joint Port Opening Capability – A Proposal

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2 Comments on "New Long Form Content – Joint Port Opening Capability – A Proposal"

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D Smith

Excuse me but done we already have the capability to provide this (although in a somewhat limited way due to recent cuts) via 17 Port & Maritime Regt RLC at Marchwood on Southampton Water. This unit proved its worthiness in 1982 in the Falklands, in 1990/91 in the first Gulf war yet again in the second Gulf war in 2003, the Balkans, Sierra Leone and hurricane aid in Haiti. If the regiment was allowed to be at the same strength it was in 82 with the same amount of plant/ heavy plant & vessels / mexefloat along with 20 Maritime Regt (allowed to reform) we would be able to conduct amphibious operations over any beachhead/Port.


I commend the author for a well-researched and informative piece. Don’t be too self-depreciating, you’re clearly someone with expertise! The article builds upon the Conservative proposal to redefine how we utilise the ODA budget, incorporating and formalising more of what the MOD can deliver as part of a joint enterprise. I fully support that. Delivering a X-Govt (MOD-DFID) Port Opening Capability is a good example of where those interest could align. The two departments could/should certainly come together to better codify a range of likely tasks and roles and responsibilities once the ODA budget is more broadly defined. When it comes to ways and means being packaged and held at specific readiness I’m a little less convinced that the ambition will ever be realised. For the MOD’s part we pretty much still retain a full spectrum Port Enabling Capability, with ends defined as being able to project over a bear beach, through austere ports to off loading at a well-found one. We have survey capability (STRE), ship-to-shore capability, EOD and dive experts, plant and lighterage. What’s new, and not covered in your article, is that we have harnessed a wider array of commercial options with the requirement and partnership we have with Solent Gateway Ltd. There is a Whole Force aspect to this new contract that enables us to supplement existing military means. We have plenty of precedent of being able to work as a supporting department to DFID (and their funding) when required, bringing the all-important Port Enabling capability to bear: Op PANLAKE (Haiti) and Op ZEST (Tristan da Cunha). We can already support the STRIKE concept in the manner you describe. Achieving Speed of Assembly (Port Enabling – Open, Activate, Sustain) is germane to Deterrence and vital ground for Defence. The MOD’s focus must be here and thus we are unlikely to have sufficient extra capacity to act as an insurance policy for others or triple hat it.