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Protecting our Nation's Interests

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Keeping the Sea Lanes Open

Ninety per cent of Britain’s trade moves by sea – so keeping the oceans free is vital to the prosperity of our nation. As a maritime nation, the UK’s economic prosperity depends on seaborne trade travelling safely through a network of international sea lanes. The Royal Navy plays a key role in keeping these sea lanes safe and secure in home waters and across the world.

security at sea
security at sea

As an island nation, Britain relies on its sea lanes to survive – an adage as true now as it was during World War 2 or the age of Nelson.

Nine out ten items bought by – or produced by – Britons arrives or leaves by sea. From your tin of beans or prime-cut steak to that computer on your office desk, that TV in your sitting room, that car on your driveway.

The nation’s seaports deal with 1.5 million tonnes of freight every day – over 560 million tonnes annually.

We rely on the sea too for our fuel supplies – around twice a week, two huge tankers arrive in Pembrokeshire and disgorge up to 200,000 cubic metres of liquefied natural gas into tanks at a new £13bn terminal in Milford Haven.

The tankers come from the Middle East, mainly from the natural gas fields of Qatar, a good 7,000 miles from the UK.

In covering that distance, the bespoke gas tankers pass through five of the ten ‘choke points’ on the world’s oceans – narrow stretches of water whose blockage will severely restrict global trade – the Straits of Hormuz, Bab-el-Mendeb, Suez, Gibraltar, Dover (if bound for the new terminal on the Isle of Grain in the Thames).

That is why there is a substantial Royal Navy presence east of Suez in particular – to keep the sea lanes open.

It is as important a mission as safeguarding the Atlantic routes against the U-boat in two world wars, securing the lifeline to Malta, preventing Napoleon choke our global trade.

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