At the start of 2016 there were 701 ‘militarily useful’ British vessels, a reduction of 140 vessels since the same point in 2009.
Militarily-useful vessels are defined as vessels that could be requisitioned in appropriate circumstances in support of the UK Armed Forces.
This process is also known as STUFT (ship taken up from trade), it refers to a civilian ship requisitioned for government use.
The Falklands War of 1982 saw a diversity of ships taken up from trade, including tankers with potable water (see British logistics in the Falklands War) and fuels, freighters carrying food and munitions, and luxury liners converted to carry troops.
According to the ‘UK armed forces equipment and formations 2016‘ report, there continues to be a decreasing trend in the total number of British registered passenger, tanker and dry cargo vessels.
The number of British registered merchant specialist and fishing vessels has also continued to decrease, falling by 20 to 82 vessels since 31 December 2009.
The report adds that these reductions “may be due in part to: a reduction in vessels registered under the British flag or the complete loss of vessels e.g. vessels being scrapped.”
The report also provides information on the strength of the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary:
“At 1 April 2016 there were 76 vessels in the UK Armed Forces: 64 vessels in the Royal Navy and 12 in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. Patrol Ships (18 Inshore and 4 Offshore) make up the largest proportion of Royal Navy vessels, with 22. The total number of Destroyers and Frigates (19) as at 1 April 2016 are also in line with SDSR Joint Force 2025 commitments.”