The Royal Navy has announced that they have been exploring the idea of NATO naval vessels using commercial tankers to supply fuel to warships “in times of crisis”.

Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Tidesurge linked up with the civilian MT Maersk Peary in Lyme Bay to see whether oil could be practically transferred between the two vessels.

“Calling upon civilian oilers to sustain the fleet could prove crucial if the military tankers are unable to stock up on supplies by putting into port. The Royal Navy relied on extensive support from civilian tankers during the Falklands conflict 40 years ago – sustaining a task group 9,000 miles from the UK. But in more recent years, that support has not been needed, nor training practised.

The Royal Fleet Auxiliary – whose ships support and supply Royal Navy warships on operations around the globe – joined forces with its American counterpart, US Military Sealift Command, who chartered the Peary for the trials. The resulting link-up in the Channel – known as a Replenishment at Sea or RAS in naval parlance – saw the refuelling rig from Tidesurge successfully sent across to the Peary where it hooked-up with its replenishment station.”

The Royal Navy add that although no fuel passed between the two ships, the successful connection proved the ability of the civilian tanker to connect with a military vessel.

Captain Sam Shattock was quoted as saying:

This exciting trial is the first step for the Royal Navy in developing an organic national capability to consolidate Fleet Replenishment Oilers from commercial vessels. It has delivered assurance to both nations that the ability to work together remains a key tenet of our operational outputs.

You can read more here.

George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. He also works for the NHS. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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John Hartley
John Hartley
8 days ago

Well the RN used to have 5x Rover class small fleet tankers, as well as the big ones. We only have large tankers now, which makes sense for large deployments, but it is a shame that the RN does not have one or two smaller tankers for supporting one or two frigates to far flung, defence diplomacy, missions. The New Zealand HMNZS Aotearoa, is the sort of ship, I wish the RN had.

Rudeboy
Rudeboy
8 days ago
Reply to  John Hartley

Try closer to home…

HNoMS Maud is from the same family as the Tide Class but is a little smaller and acts as an AOR for the Norwegian’s…built in the same yard as well.

John Hartley
John Hartley
7 days ago
Reply to  Rudeboy

Yes & there is the new Dutch ship as well. Any of those please.

David Lloyd
David Lloyd
8 days ago

STUFT again. Good grief

Mark Roberts
Mark Roberts
8 days ago
Reply to  David Lloyd

Using STUFT has always happened in times of emergency. The UK’s issue is that we haven’t got much trade left to take up from. Maersk Peary sails under the US flag hence I suppose the USMSC involvement.

mikezeroone
mikezeroone
8 days ago

This isn’t new, been a thing for decades for larger navies.
Means frees up crews and hulls for other jobs.

James Fennell
James Fennell
8 days ago

As we found out in 1982, this is an essential capability to keep the RFAs in theatre when operating far from acessible ports. Important in the Arctic, South Atlantic and Indo-Pacific as otherwise the RFAs have to waste time on long transits back to ports to ‘top up’. In the Falklands in 1982 a ‘tanker box’ was established East of the Falklands where RFAs could refill from commercial tankers. In the 1950s and 60s we had a few support tankers, but these were used to resupply overseas bases rather than top up RAS equipped ships at sea. In 1982 a… Read more »

Last edited 8 days ago by James Fennell
Max Bridges
Max Bridges
8 days ago

That would also make said tankers a legitimate target for adversaries

James Fennell
James Fennell
8 days ago
Reply to  Max Bridges

If you are at war the target of adversaries at sea is your merchant fleet, they are the reason we have warships to protect sealanes and are never neutral.

Monkey spanker
Monkey spanker
8 days ago
Reply to  James Fennell

Panama and the Marshall Islands are going to have huge fleets to use in this practice.
Flags of convenience are a strange thing. Not sure how it could be stopped or if it should be

Rob Young
Rob Young
8 days ago
Reply to  Max Bridges

I don’t think the concept of ‘legitimate targets’ applies…for any potential enemy, a target is a target, whether against Iran, NK, Russia or China…

johan
johan
7 days ago
Reply to  Max Bridges

I would look up the Capital ships and the Merchant ships in World war 2, were they not all a target.

war is war, if your suppling a enemy everything is a target

Stephen Conroy
Stephen Conroy
8 days ago

While not new and always a historical asset, it’s good that the navy is getting back to actually *practicing* this rather than winging it in a crisis.

Jon
Jon
8 days ago

Good idea now the Waves are resting/rusting, but I can’t see why no oil was transferred. Does this mean they’ll be testing again? And will they have to test in the open ocean rather than a bay?

The other question that comes to mind is, can commercial tankers transfer directly with extra rigs and pumps, or will they only be able to replenish the Tides?

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
8 days ago

Sensible stuff, and STUFT is an important resource.

The bigger issue for me is Wave Knight and Wave Ruler reportedly laid up for lack of crew.

The Waves are needed to support wider deployments while the Tides ideally support the QEC Group and the LRG if it deploys.

David Lloyd
David Lloyd
8 days ago

Has this lack of crew got anything to do with mismanagement by the MoD?

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
8 days ago
Reply to  David Lloyd

Relatively low pay compared to commercial.

As you may have noticed container costs are through the roof so the container lines are prepared to pay what it takes for the highly experienced officers.

It is a bit OT but the recent P&O debacle revealed that the ferries were no longer ‘retained’ ready for STUFT. In the old days the ferries were given soft government finance and had to be UK crewed so they were available. Clearly that was ditched at some point.

Jonathan
Jonathan
8 days ago

A lot of this sort of soft national capability has been sacrificed under the knife of neoliberal dogma, you can’t have a government supporting a national industry or company it’s got to live and die on its own through the international free market, even if the nation actual needed that capability.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
8 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

The other side of the coin was that government was so busy dousing the place with cheap money, and creating asset bubbles, that any advantage that could be gleaned from cheap money / guarantees evaporated.

The place is awash with cheap money but cheap loans to SME’s don’t exist: they do in Germany or France.

Tommo
Tommo
7 days ago

Mind you SB , during Corporate we were on diddly squart where as those crews on STUFT were on danger monies as well as their normal rate ,someone even mentioned that RFA crews were on DM you can get the crews if the price is right they just better be worth it though

Simon
Simon
8 days ago
  • Also were there not whisperings about selling off one of the waves ? The MOD has also had commercial tankers on charter before now. Might be better to concentrate on crewing both the Wave’s.
James Fennell
James Fennell
7 days ago
Reply to  Simon

The navy has money for ships now, but has a cap on crew numbers. Newer ships are more highly automated and have smaller crews, so more shoud be freed up as the Type 23s and older RFAs begin to go out of service. In the meantime both the Navy and RFA are juggling crews to meet current needs.

Phil Chadwick
Phil Chadwick
8 days ago

Nothing new. Anyone who remembers Operation Corporate will recall all the Merchant Navy Tankers that did their bit in keeping the RFA’s topped up: MV’s British Trent, Tamar, Esk, Tay, Avon, Test, Dart, Wye, Eburna, Anco Charger, Alvega, Balder London, GA Walker and Scottish Eagle, and there may have been others as well.

nonsense
nonsense
8 days ago

The idea of ​​renting a civilian ships for refueling in case of an emergency rather than having the tanker constantly owned by MOD, is a good idea.

It would be good to develop a related protocol in preparation for civilian ships who are not familiar with offshore refueling.

DRS
DRS
8 days ago

I don’t get why this government doesn’t have a “national leasing company” that funds the build of commercial vehicles in the U.K. that are then leased out to commercial enterprises. This would build up our capacity across yards, we used to build for the world and now all of that a has drifted to China/Korea etc. China I get is cheaper for manpower but we should be able to build commercial vehicles like Germany and Italy do and be competitive with Korea. The perfect kind of ships you could build are oil and LPG tankers, cable laying ships and similar… Read more »

Robert Billington
Robert Billington
8 days ago

Where will this end? Arming these ships and impressing them into British service, how might an enemy act I wonder!

Jonathan
Jonathan
8 days ago

If we were at war the same way they would with any British flagged merchant, sink it or impound it.

Monkey spanker
Monkey spanker
8 days ago

As a land lover maybe someone can help answer these.
Do all commercial tankers have pipe fittings to fill up other ships while at sea? (I see North Korea does it at sea sometimes)
Are the ships doing these transfers while moving? Wondered about risks of bumping each other as a doubt commercial ships practice these transfers.
How does the pumping work? Do the commercial tankers pump or navy ships or both?

simon alexander
simon alexander
7 days ago
Reply to  Monkey spanker

hopefully not all commercial tankers, great likely hood of illegal activities and embargo breaking plus oil spills.

Mark Forsyth
Mark Forsyth
7 days ago

My brother worked for “Shell” during the FI conflict, and I seem to recall him saying the biggest issue was compatibility of “couplings”. Using STUFT is no different from the current situation we have with the RORO’s working out of Marchwood. As others have said, the biggest issue will be around ships flagged with the “Red Duster”. The numbers get fewer every year, and as someone already pointed out, the change in P&O staff for the ferries, also removes another STUFT capability from the governments pocket. Sadly a lot of Government and the advisers only see balance sheets, and forget… Read more »

Tommo
Tommo
7 days ago

Looking back we called it STUFT ships taken up from trade that was when we still had a ship building industry but times were pressing in 82

Lazerbenabba
Lazerbenabba
7 days ago

That facility used to be known as the merchant Navy which during both world wars did sterling service and at a great cost in lives to the civilian seamen.
I am astonished that this is considered something new and revolutionary.
Wwe may not currently be in a full blown war situation with Russia but still would have thought that this would be cost effective and commercial common sense for both the RN and Merchant navy.

Last edited 7 days ago by Lazerbenabba
Paul.P
Paul.P
7 days ago

We live in interesting times. HMS Echo is laid up…3000 tons, helicopter landing pad, internal hospital, drinks parties and diving off the stern deck….perfect HMS Britannia.

Last edited 7 days ago by Paul.P
John Hartley
John Hartley
6 days ago
Reply to  Paul.P

Crystal Endeavor, expedition cruise ship built 2021. Crystal cruises just went bust & is up for sale.

David Owen
David Owen
12 minutes ago

We need a lot of rfa ships the Falkland war proved that they were needed, we need to be self reliant but blind idiots called politicians don’t see that ,tories and Labour put the boot into our armed forces for years now the price is being paid ,time for the military to put the boot into politicians useless as they are ,regrowth of the armed forces is the only way forward