UK under threat of “sea strangulation”, union claims

The UK is at risk of ‘sea strangulation’ because of a significant decline in the strength of its Merchant and Royal Navies, according to maritime professionals’ union Nautilus International.

In a letter to the chairman of the House of Commons defence committee, the union claimed that the UK was becoming increasingly dependent on foreign shipping and that this constituted a grave risk to the country’s economy.

The defence committee recently issued a report in which it warned that the fleet of the Royal Navy was now below ‘the critical mass required for the many tasks which could confront it’.

Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson said that “ministers have repeatedly stressed the importance of trade for our economic recovery, and for the post-Brexit relationships with other countries. It is, therefore, more important than ever that our sea lanes are open and secure.”

Dickinson said that that the defence committee’s report downplays the size of the threat to the UK’s security, because it does not address the impact of cuts in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, a back-up to the Royal Navy.

“The scale of our dependence on foreign – often flag of convenience – shipping is dangerous, from both a strategic and an economic standpoint”, Dickinson said.