Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Training and Disaster Relief Aid Vessel Venture Gets High Profile Support

Charity Wants a Permanent Floating Source of Assistance
Shipping News Feature

UK – CARIBBEAN – The plan to launch a futuristic vessel to support disaster relief operations and train suitable staff, which we gave full details of in our August article, received some heavyweight support this week when it was officially launched at London International Shipping Week (LISW 2019).

Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley spoke in London fresh from surveying first-hand the disaster zone which was left after the passing of Hurricane Dorian, with the Caribbean’s governmental organisation CARICOM. She spoke movingly of the storm which she said had ‘reaped absolute horror upon the Bahamas’.

The idea for the £150 million ship which will be resident in the Caribbean has come from registered charity Britannia Maritime Aid (BMA) and has received wide support. Now UK-based BMA has urgently stepped up its plans to commission a suitable ship as an interim vessel to provide support as soon as possible in the Caribbean. Prime Minister Mottley, who was en route to give the prestigious Raul Prebisch Lecture at the UN European headquarters in Geneva, called for a collective approach to tackle the crisis, continuing:

“This hurricane sat on the Bahamas for 36 hours. Everyone who described what they endured said that it was like having a thousand sledgehammers working at you every minute of every hour for 36 hours, not to mention the impact of the storm surge.”

“There is no doubt in my mind that Britannia Maritime Aid’s endeavour is absolutely necessary for the region and caused me to reflect the absolute importance of collective partnership across the global community. We do not generate the activity that has led to climate change.

“We are simply however on the front line of the battle. We are continuously reminded that our value is compromised by a world that is prepared to countenance a change temperature of two degrees or more when we need 1.5 degrees to survive. It means that we will continue to be on the front line on an annual basis.”

In the long-term BMA says any purpose-built vessels aim to be able to carry significantly more humanitarian aid and disaster relief equipment than present vessels from the Royal Navy or Royal Fleet Auxiliary, including food, water, medicine, field hospitals, emergency shelter, and will be equipped with helicopters, drones and landing craft.

When not engaged in disaster relief and humanitarian aid, the vessels will provide training for sea cadets and associated trade apprentices and engage in such ocean advocacy as plastic clean-ups. BMA chairman Kevin Slade said:

“Ms Mottley’s first hand testimony hammered home just how desperate the situation is. We could start tomorrow if we had an interim ship and funding in place. Our ships will not only save lives, they could also save our Government money, revitalise shipbuilding and give the next generation of seafarers the very best training in the world.”

BMA has launched a crowdfunding page to help fund an initial a business case. It has already been backed by major maritime and political figures. Shipbuilder Cammell Laird, currently building the Sir David Attenborough polar ship, is expected to build the first £140 million vessel for BMA in the long term.

The ship builder's chief executive Tony Graham spoke at the BMA launch at the UK Chamber of Shipping and other backers include former First Sea Lords, the Lord West of Spithead and Admiral Sir Nigel Essenhigh plus ship designers Leadship, unions RMT and Nautilus International, the UK Chamber of Shipping, the Merchant Navy Training Board the maritime charity London Trinity House.

Photo: Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley centre with Britannia Maritime Aid commercial director Dieter Jaenicke (left) and Britannia Maritime Aid chairman Kevin Slade (right)