It seems we are to get our 200 mile economic waters back in a year's time, and with them the right to decide who fishes them and what and how much is caught there. It's also pretty obvious that the UK fishing fleet has been decimated, and it will take time to build new boats and above all to skill new crew in a highly hazardous industry, to upgrade shore facilities including freezing and processing and establish market and inland transport capacity. So it's pretty obvious that we're going to continue to licence, for a suitable fee I hope, at least for some time, both EU and and any other boats to take fish from our waters after 2019.
The question arises as to how we are to patrol this - and to stop unlicenced boats from poaching our fish. This is traditionally the job of the Fisheries Protection Squadron; and here my first quote from the UK AF commentary blog:
The Fishery Protection Squadron is constantly out at sea around the UK, and has very little, if any time to wander far away from home. A 42 strong crew is embarked to work to a three watches mechanism. Each ship has an additional allocation of personnel used to rotate members of the crew to meet harmony rules. Personnel on the Rivers could be indicatively expected to spend four weeks at sea and two weeks on land, pretty much all year long. The River batch 1 ships each spend a minimum of 275 days out at sea, with maintenance to the vessels intended to ensure the capability of spending up to 320 days at sea. Normally there is a 9 days maintenance period and a longer one of 16 days, each year.This is a good point to introduce the Rivers - River class offshore patrol vessels, built in two variants; the Batch 1, which cost about £60m each, and the Batch 2, at a cost of £120m each, which are currently coming off the slipway. The difference is down to the fact that Batch 2s are being built to warship standards - with systems, magazines etc that can sustain damage and punishment from other warships, whereas the Batch 1s are pure 'constabulary duties' vessels. More on the Batch 2s from Think Defence HERE.
Combined, the three ships have to deliver at least 700 days of activity at sea, and Hunt minesweepers are used to complement the Rivers in fishery protection patrol task, but with no fixed target. Back in 2004, some three Hunt vessels could be routinely expected to be involved in supporting Fishery Protection.
Now this is where the lying, double dealing and manipulation come in. These new Batch 2 vessels are also just about suitable as substitutes for the frigates and corvettes that we don't have, to maintain a global presence. But because of their reduced at-sea capacity, they would need to be forward-based - permanently stationed - in the Caribbean, Gibraltar, Falklands or Bahrain - meaning they would not be available for UK fisheries protection. Yet the MoD seems to be pretending that they could do both tasks at the same time. It's pretty obvious they can't.
In summary, from next year we'll need a far greater fisheries protection capacity but are building vessels grossly overspecified for FPVs because we need to send them out of the UK. We will not have enough vessels even to maintain our existing FP capacity next year, never mind enhance it. To my simple mind we need more £60m Batch 1s, with a build time of less than a year, that can fly-off UAVs and watch large areas of sea. But we need to place orders now.
|Batch 2 River class OPV HMS Forth - just launched and soon to leave for the Falklands ...