Royal Navy prepares for future UK fishery patrols

The Royal Navy is preparing to support the monitoring and protection of UK fisheries after Britain leaves the EU, having taken delivery of the first of five next-generation Offshore Patrol ships for the fleet.

HMS Forth is the first of five state-of-the-art Royal Navy vessels designed for fishery protection, as well as counter-piracy, anti-smuggling, border patrol, counter terrorism and maritime defence duties.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

“The Royal Navy has a proud tradition of protecting the UK’s coastline and keeping a close eye on our fishing waters. With these state-of-the-art, vastly capable ships we stand ready to protect our fisheries once Britain leaves the EU.” 

The River-class Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) production line is moving apace with the £116m ships emerging at around six-month intervals.

The Royal Navy has a proud tradition of protecting the UK’s coastline and keeping a close eye on our fishing waters

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson

The Royal Navy Fishery Protection Squadron is expecting a further two ships – HMS Medway and Trent – to be handed over later this year, with the remaining two – HMS Tamar and Spey – expected to arrive in Portsmouth by 2020. Just last week HMS Trent was formally named at the Glasgow shipyard where she was built.

They will become the Royal Navy’s eyes and ears around the UK, helping to safeguard fishing stocks. They will also assist in reassuring and protecting the Falkland Islands and are capable of deploying to the Mediterranean and Caribbean to uphold UK interests around the world.

Last week the Treasury announced that the MOD will receive a portion of a £12.7m fund from the Government’s Brexit preparation allocation to support work with DEFRA on maintaining the UK’s fisheries. The MOD is working closely with other government departments like DEFRA to determine the optimum deployment of these extremely flexible vessels.

Designed for a total crew of around 58, but requiring only 34 to go to sea, they can spend up to 320 days a year on operations. The larger crew allows a rotation of personnel to ensure they get to spend time at home or on training.

The new OPVs can move four knots faster than their predecessors at 24 knots, have an increased range of 5,500 nautical miles, have a 30mm automatic cannon as their main armament instead of a 20mm gun, two Miniguns, four machine-guns and are equipped with two Pacific 24 sea boats.

Each ship has an extended flight deck to operate up to Merlin size helicopters and accommodation for up to 50 embarked Royal Marines for boarding and supporting operations ashore if required.