The Falkland Islands have been left without the protection of a major British warship for the first time since the conflict broke out in 1982, it has been reported.
The Royal Navy is committed to providing a permanent presence in the South Atlantic to “reassure islanders and maintain a sovereign presence” in the area.
But according to the Independent, the islands have been left without the protection of a British frigate or destroyer for the first time since the war in 1982.
The newspaper reports that a manpower crisis, engine problems with the Royal Navy’s Type 45 destroyers, and the deployment of ships to monitor Russian naval movements elsewhere, has left the territory without the same protection.
No vessel has been sent to the South Atlantic since a frigate left the region in November 2015, according to the newspaper.
It comes as relations in the region faced fresh strains after a UN commission ruled to expand Argentina’s maritime territory in the South Atlantic Ocean by more than a third to include the Falklands.
Shadow defence secretary Emily Thornberry told the Independent the situation is “unacceptable” and the Ministry of Defence should “immediately” dispatch a warship to the region.
She said: “In one area after another we have seen the impact of the savage cuts made to our armed forces since David Cameron came to office but, even by those low standards, it is unacceptable that the Government is failing to provide the protection for the Falkland Islands that has been promised, and that the islanders have a right to expect as British citizens.
“The Ministry of Defence must rectify the situation immediately.”
Several warships have been forced to be stationed at ports because of manpower shortages and technical problems with the latest advanced destroyers, the newspaper claimed.
These include the destroyer HMS Dauntless, which now serves as a training ship, and the frigate HMS Lancaster, which are both docked in Portsmouth, the newspaper said.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “HMS Dauntless and HMS Lancaster are not mothballed and remain very much part of the fleet.
“The Navy is meeting its commitments from the Baltic Sea to the Gulf, and the Falklands remains well-protected via the patrol warship HMS Clyde, a Royal Fleet Auxiliary support ship and around 1,200 personnel operating RAF Typhoons and ground defences.”