Thursday, April 16, 2009

Editorial: BBC, "Warships due to move Navy Base'

Further to a report published by the BBC, "Warships due to move Navy Base" on April 15th, 2009

Once upon a time in a far-away kingdom there was a Royal Navy which had four bases from which its surface fleet and submarine flotilla conducted operations alongside two refit yards co-located with the bases - one in the North and one in the South. Two bases (one for submarines and one for surface ships) were located in the wild North and two in the warm, cozy South.

No Admirals on retirement settled in the wild North preferring the warmer climes and gentler social setting of the South so when the politicians needed to rationalise its bases the inevitable cry was 'abandon the North'

The civil service pursued this strategy well privatising the refit yards, one in the North and one in the South and closing one of the Northern naval bases - which would logically lead to the closure of the refit yard privatised in the North.

However, there was a miscalculation - the government was over-thrown and the new government was led predominantely by ministers - from the North. The refit yard in the North prospered and a company made an audacious acquisition of its long-time rival in the South.

Meanwhile the Navy needed to rationalise its bases still further and could not close its only base in the North because of political pressure plus the nuclear submarine infrastructure would cost too much to move and cause upset - leaving the need to abandon a naval base in the warm, cozy South.

Of the two bases in the south, one had a refit yard co-located, the other had a huge waterfront next door to busy popular yachting sea-lanes with all kinds of force-protection concerns for the Navy. Obviously this was the base to maintain because of the shiny new accommodation block for sailors and their families which had been built at great expense.

As the Navy was under much pressure to spend as little as possible the new idea was simple. Regardless of logic, move the fleet to the base which has no refit capacity and then have sailors do as much as possible to save money (not that the fleet sallied forth much these days anyway).

Is there a moral in this tail ? Perhaps had the Navy been allowed to plan the exercise by keeping it simple...

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1 comment:

Robin Ashby said...


from - 17th Apr 09

The people preaching doomsday over the recent leaks from the naval base review should quiet down. The results were expected and overall they are not as bad as some had feared.

Britain will keep its three naval bases. Plymouth Devonport, which many analysts have predicted is on its last legs, will remain open. Its surface fleet ships will be relocated to Portsmouth. But parts of the submarine fleet will remain at the base as will the amphibious assault fleet.

Many people in Plymouth see the revelation as a sign of the apocalypse. Already we have been graced with images of a run down city where everyone is out of work and rats run freely on empty streets full of tumbleweeds simply because 11 frigates are being moved.

In reality Plymouth residents should be relieved. Devonport was long suspected of being closed or seeing a drastically reduced capability. The loss of the frigates will hurt, but the base will have a chance to expand in other areas and the majority of the civilian work force will continue to have jobs.

The results of the review are in response to years of under funding and cuts across the whole of the Royal Navy. Unfortunately Britain can no longer support three large scale naval bases when its submarine and surface fleet has been dramatically reduced. Someone had to suffer and given the circumstances, the MoD has done an excellent job limiting the impact on Devonport.

Just remember, it could be worse.