Friday, August 23, 2019

Grand Plans for Training and Disaster Relief Ship to Launch at London International Shipping Week

Charity Has Big Ideas for One of a Kind Vessel
Shipping News Feature
UK – A comprehensive group of British stakeholders and supporters are to get behind an ambitious initiative from Britannia Maritime Aid (BMA), a registered charity which aims to build a futuristic, £150 million training and disaster relief vessel in the UK. The official plans will be launched at the UK Chamber of Shipping on Monday September 9 during London International Shipping Week (LISW2019) but a foretaste of what is scheduled has been released.

This one of a kind vessel is to be based in the Caribbean 365 days a year where it will deliver humanitarian aid and provide sea training berths for the next generation of UK and Commonwealth officer cadets, rating apprentices and trainees in trades associated with aid and reconstruction, and her crew will focus on the environment and ocean advocacy, including beach and coast clean ups, plastic collection and research.

The initiative is backed by former First Sea Lords, the Lord West of Spithead and Admiral Sir Nigel Essenhigh who have joined forces with a range of maritime professionals and training experts. BMA says other supporters include members of the Houses of Lords and Commons, shipbuilder Cammell Laird, ship designers Leadship, unions RMT and Nautilus International, the UK Chamber of Shipping, the Merchant Navy Training Board the maritime charity London Trinity House and the Government of Barbados, whose Prime Minister will speak at the launch. BMA chairman Captain Kevin P Slade, commented:

“Having a dedicated vessel with a training and aid function is a first of its kind for the UK and would ease the pressure on the limited resources that the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary can provide. It will be an innovative use of essential and finite funds, increasing the effectiveness of the UK's disaster relief work whilst also increasing the supply of British seafarers and supporting ocean advocacy. BMA has launched a crowdfunding campaign for initial costs needed to finance a detailed business plan required for the next stage, obtaining the necessary funding to progress from concept to reality.”

The BMA vessel, to be operated by a British company, will include a training centre, landing craft, helicopters, drones, rough terrain vehicles, onboard medical facilities, briefing rooms, conference facilities, workshops and full mission bridge and engine simulators for trainees. The ship will be able to carry up to 6,000 tonnes of vehicles and aid supplies, more than ten times the capacity of current vessels, including field hospitals, field kitchens, tents, fresh water and fuel for devastated areas.

BMA’s project is also intended to provide much needed sea training berths at a time when the Government plans to double the number of Merchant Navy officer cadets under its SMarT Plus initiative. Prompting Admiral Lord West to observe:

“Britannia Maritime Aid’s plans will significantly bolster the UK’s maritime capabilities in the long term while saving lives, supporting British shipbuilding and complementing the role of our hard-pressed armed forces. I fully support the proposals and urged others to give their support to ensure we make these very welcome plans a reality as soon as possible.”

BMA says the ship's regular crew will be supplemented by maritime trainees, cadets and apprentices who would gain ship handling, navigation, engineering, boat work and pilotage experience. It intends to offer opportunities for life-changing training experiences for non-maritime industrial apprentices within the aid and disaster relief teams in trades associated with repairing and rebuilding communities.

BMA aims to deliver its ship by 2024, and will charter or buy suitable ships to run operations until its purpose-built ship is ready. Crowdfunding may kick start the project but BMA says it intends to gain long-term funding from industry, the private sector and benefactors, plus of course the government. Cynics would say good luck with that last.

Whilst the staff of Britain’s much depleted Royal Navy received a 2.9% pay rise for 2018-9 the aforementioned Royal Fleet Auxillary (RFA), which supports the senior service and is staffed with civilian employees, and thus does not fall under the Armed Forces pay Review body, have been frozen out with historic pay cuts,freezes and lately a less than inflation 1.5% increase, something the RMT union has been concerned with of late and is actively campaigning against

RFA personnel thus perform as merchant navy, civil service staff, whilst taking the same risks as their Royal Navy colleagues, two vessels currently committed to the troubled waters through the Strait of Hormuz, for example. So far union protestations have fallen on deaf ears.

For further details of the BMA project contact Kevin Slade on +44 (0)7944 895363 and to donate use the crowdfunding link shown above.