Royal Navy to replace Endurance?

HMS Endurance (A171) in Portsmouth

HMS Endurance in Portsmouth (Image via Wikipedia)

Today’s Portsmouth News contains an unconfirmed report that the Royal Navy is looking to replace the stricken Ice Patrol Ship HMS Endurance with a Norwegian Icebreaker for next years South Atlantic Patrol. Endurance, one of the most famous and recognisable ships in the Royal Navy, almost sank in 2008 when her engine room flooded. She has been laid up in Portsmouth since arriving back in the UK in early 2009, whilst the Navy and the Ministry of the Defence decide what to do with her.

During 2010 HMS Scott, an ocean-going survey vessel, deployed to the South Atlantic. This is not seen as a long-term solution, as she has no icebreaking capability and cannot operate helicopters in the same manner as Endurance. Also, she has her own duties to attend to. Militarily, the case for a South Atlantic Patrol Ship is not a priority for the Navy itself, but politically it would be seen as a major sign of weakness if the UK were to withdraw such a presence in the region. Earlier this year Argentina attempted to garner support from fellow South American countries for its stance over the Falklands. A proposed cut to the previous HMS Endurance precipitated the 1982 war.

With the current HMS Endurance laid up in Portsmouth and needing repairs believed to run into millions of pounds, it is likely that the Navy will seek to lease an existing icebreaker, probably from a Scandinavian source. This has been done in the past, when in 1967 the Navy purchased the MV Anita Dan from a Danish shipping line and renamed her HMS Endurance, and in 1991 when the Norwegian MV Polar Circle was chartered for eight months. She was later purchased outright and became second HMS Endurance. Leasing a ship before purchase enables the Navy to evaluate its suitability, especially for service in the ice. Any merchant vessel, however, will need to be adapted to Naval damage control standards, and will have to be able to operate helicopters.

Officially nothing has been decided, and it is likely that  an announcement will come as part of the soon-to-be-released Strategic Defence Review.



Filed under Falklands War, Navy, News

25 responses to “Royal Navy to replace Endurance?

  1. x

    One of these would be nice……..

    Keeping our “Antarctic sovereignty” is very important to the long term future of UK plc. The above costs about 1.5 Eurofighters. I think it is valid to ask which is the more worthwhile?

  2. James Daly

    You certainly get more for your money with an icebreaker. Just as long as we get something thats pretty solid – sounds silly for an icebreaker, i know – can operate helicopters and can carry a reasonable party of bootnecks.

  3. x

    But there is something a bit deeper here concerning defence reviews. Is a review about identifying needs and matching resources or just about cuts? Say they cut CVF. We know that the cut will “save” £5billion (just under half the cost of the RAF tanker programme.) But if the review was real we should be looking at saving £4billion and spending £1billion to meet needs. Um. We can’t afford to a CBG to go to bash the Argentines if they are naughty. But we can afford a ship like the one I mentioned as a token presence. In international relations tokens and symbolism are very important. Go and read “Beyond Endurance”…

    I have never attended a reasonable party where they have been Royal Marines in attendance. 🙂

  4. James Daly

    I’m pretty sure its a slash and burn job like Nott in 1981, the parallels are all too clear. Lets just hope that the Tory’s see the historical lesson that cutting your South Atlantic presence and limiting your ability to respond is in effect a welcome mat for the Args.

  5. x

    I concur. When you hear ministers and media pundits talking about leaner better focused forces and the forces receiving equipment they need to meet emerging threats it makes me grimace.

  6. James Daly

    ‘leaner and meaner’ really is the buzz word at the moment, not just in defence but across the public sector. Who are they kidding? Its leaner and weedier, like Mr Muscle in the TV adverts.

  7. ENDURANCE has also done non Antarctic tasks, like defence diplomacy and limited maritime security around West Africa.

  8. James Daly

    Thats true, she always makes a few port visits on her way down to the South Atlantic and then on her way back again. And of course she acted as the ‘royal yacht’ for the Fleet Review in 2005. She’s also Portsmouth’s adopted ship.

  9. x

    Perhaps Their Lordships missed an opportunity by not giving Scott an ice strengthed hull. She could have spent the Antartic summer supporting BAS etc. and the “winters” doing hydrographic work.

    Oh and Scott does have a bow thruster.

    I have yet to set foot onboard Scott, Enterprise or Echo. Perhaps if there is a Navy Day 2011 in Guzz I may be lucky.

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