November 28, 2016 - Britain is at risk of ‘sea strangulation’ because of the dramatic decline of its Merchant and Royal Navies, the maritime union Nautilus International has warned a Parliamentary watchdog.
In a letter to the chairman of the House of Commons defence committee, Dr Julian Lewis, the union says the UK is running grave strategic and economic risks by becoming increasingly dependent on foreign shipping.
Nautilus welcomed the defence committee’s new report, which warns that the Royal Naby has fallen to a historic low – with the fleet now below ‘the critical mass required for the many tasks which could confront it’.
General secretary Mark Dickinson told Dr Lewis that the report raises significant concerns. ‘Maritime security is of immense importance to an island nation that relies on shipping for 95% of its imports and exports,’ he pointed out.
‘Ministers have repeatedly stressed the importance of trade for our economic recovery, and for the post-Brexit relationships with other countries. It is, therefore, more important than ever that our sea lanes are open and secure.’
Mr Dickinson said he believed the defence committee’s report under-states the severity of the threat to the UK’s security as it does not cover the impact of cuts in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, which provides crucial back-up to the Royal Navy.
‘We continue to be concerned that the strategic implications of the decline of the Merchant Navy and the UK’s maritime skills base have been grossly neglected,’ he added. The scale of our dependence on foreign – often flag of convenience – shipping is dangerous, from both a strategic and an economic standpoint.’
Mr Dickinson said he hoped the committee would also examine the delays to the delivery of the RFA Tidespring, the first of the long-awaited new Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability (MARS) vessels, and to examine the potential for other much-needed new RFA ships to be built in Britain.