A FORMER head of the Royal Navy has warned of a looming crisis over the number of ships able to patrol Britain’s coastline post-Brexit.
Admiral Lord Alan West told the lords at Question Time there were not enough vessels to look after the inshore waters and the exclusive economic zone.
The Labour peer’s comments come amid uncertainty over the Portsmouth-based fleet of batch one offshore patrol vessels, which could be used to bolster Britain’s coastal fleet after it leaves Europe – or sold.
Calling for an urgent study, the former chief of naval staff and First Sea Lord said: ‘This will be a crisis post-Brexit unless something is done urgently.’
Defence minister Earl Howe said the Joint Maritime Operations Coordination Centre (JMOCC) was responsible for making an overview of where ‘appropriate assets are and seeks to coordinate their support’.
But Lord West said he remained concerned there wasn’t a single figure in operational command of the JMOCC ‘and if there is a clash of options of where these units should be used, with nine departments all talking about it, it will be like ferrets in a sack’.
Lord West also warned that funding for the coordination centre for dealing with incidents in the UK’s territorial waters did not seem at all secure beyond next April.
Lord Howe said the coordination centre was funded for the current financial year. He added: ‘In its short life since October last year it has very much proved its worth in terms of coordination.’