‘Militarily-useful’ vessels are defined as vessels that could be requisitioned in appropriate circumstances in support of the UK armed forces. The number of such vessels has fallen from 721 to 584.

According to the ‘UK armed forces equipment and formations ‘ report, there continues to be a decreasing trend in the total number of British registered passenger, tanker and dry cargo vessels.

“Militarily-useful vessels are defined as vessels that could be requisitioned in appropriate circumstances in support of the UK armed forces. The number of passenger, tanker, and dry cargo merchant vessels decreased from 721 to 584 in 2020, with product and chemical tankers showing the largest decline. In 2020, there were a total of 72 British-registered merchant specialist and fishing vessels. This is a decrease from 77 in 2018 and 2019.”

Click the below table to enlarge it.

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.

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.”

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Nick
Nick
2 months ago

The result of many years lack of investment in both civillian and military ships.

Peter Hack
Peter Hack
1 month ago
Reply to  Nick

So what ? There is no need for an armada.

Graham Lee
Graham Lee
2 months ago

The decline in British registered vessels (roughly 30%) over an eleven year period is quite startling. Not being a military man, I am assuming that some of the category losses are potentially more troubling to the military than others. Losses in the roll on roll off categories would top my list. Then again, we did use container ships like the Atlantic Conveyor as a makeshift carrier in the Falklands.

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
2 months ago

Numbers isnt the same as Tonnage.

If the comparison was regarding carrying capacity it may be more relevant.

STUFT vessels during the Falklands would be dwarfed by their modern day compatriots. Tankers, container carriers, even ferries and cruise ships are way bigger. I remember being on one of the Sealink ferries in Stanley Harbour which was used for accommodation. They have gone but they have bigger and faster replacements now in service.

Steve M
Steve M
2 months ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

Definitely, but the old ‘too many eggs in one basket’ springs to mind 🙁

Mark B
Mark B
2 months ago
Reply to  Steve M

With the advent of drone ships smaller may well become more economically viable again – so perhaps that might solve the problem. 😂

Robert Blay.
Robert Blay.
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve M

584 is still a lot of eggs.

JohninMK
JohninMK
2 months ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

Increase in cruise ships but a big drop in ferries.

George Georgiou
George Georgiou
1 month ago
Reply to  JohninMK

You can thank the Eurotunnel for that

Farouk
Farouk
2 months ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

Gun Buster what year was you in Stanley?

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
1 month ago
Reply to  Farouk

82-83…They where still building MPA and radar coverage wasn’t great. I was on one of the 5 RN ships providing patrols and radar coverage. The deployment T shirts motto… “Happiness is not a patrol called Hamlet” which was the most westerly patrol area… Defence watches, sleaping in your work kit (which where still the nylon 8s shirts and trousers that melted in fires) , and anti flash, carrying around a life jacket and once only suit every where you went. . Went ashore a few times and worked with the Royal Irish Rangers(Bonkers bunch of lads but as honest in… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Gunbuster
geoff
geoff
1 month ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

Wonderful memories Gunbuster!!

farouk
farouk
1 month ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

I did reply, but it got sent to mod. damn. In a nutshell I was part of 24 field squadron Royal engineers at the time, started off repairing the runway 1 troop on building roads, 1 on building Rubb shelters and the other on operating the quarry, but as I had qualified to operate the Combat support boat, I found myself working out of Public jetty as a gloried taxis driver, did a lot of cabbies to the outer harbour to visiting RN ships who had tied up alongside the Stena inspector. I actually helped with the Royal engineer divers… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by farouk
Gunbuster
Gunbuster
1 month ago
Reply to  farouk

I had forgoten about the quarry!

We where alongside Stena a few times and Fort Austin for a very good Jim Davidson show…whover booked the ventriloquist needed shooting

Tommo
Tommo
1 month ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

I’m sure one off the acts was a hypnotist and if I can remember rightly the two young Ladies that accompanied Mr Davidson were put up for 1 night in our wardroom whilst in stanley

Tommo
Tommo
1 month ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

Ain’t that funny Radar coverage out to the west of the island always seemed too fallover of a weekend during 83 just as soon as we were setting up for a couple of days rest they’d be a shout that Radar coverage was down and we’d have to go out on station until it was back up and running

Sean McIlvenie
Sean McIlvenie
1 month ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

I know several of the rangers. Yes, complete nutters.

farouk
farouk
1 month ago
Reply to  Farouk

123

Last edited 1 month ago by farouk
Tommo
Tommo
1 month ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

Norland?

Johan
Johan
1 month ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

agreed tonnage has increased dramatically and more modern don’t see this being an issue.

lack of British firms willing to supply vessels YES.

Gemma
Gemma
1 month ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

Sealink ferries was part of British Rail. Sealink now owned by foreign company although with modern ships. Nothing in UK including National security is safe in Tory Government Hands. IMO only of course. God help us if their is a large Russian-Chinese geopolitical induced military crisis in near future.

Challenger
Challenger
2 months ago

584 is still way, way more than we’d ever feasibly need and doesn’t take into account the size and capabilities of the ships in question.

Only really concerning if it’s a trend that continues. Plus I guess it does raise certain questions when it comes to the supposed maritime renaissance of ‘Global Britain’.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
2 months ago

Still plenty. How many STUFT were used for Corporate?

simon
simon
2 months ago

54

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
2 months ago
Reply to  simon

Thanks. So, even if we need to do another of such magnitude, with over 500 to choose from, this reduction should not be an issue.

Lusty
Lusty
2 months ago

Perhaps only of slight concern. The fall in the number of military assets takes priority in that regard. Perhaps a far better way of looking at it would be the fluctuation in tonnage and capability. What can the vessels offer that would be beneficial to the mission? How can they aid the RN/RFA in prosecuting said mission? Are they able to carry more vehicles/supplies/people than previous ships? Anyway, this is a number that’ll fluctuate a lot anyway. Companies may retire vessels in favour of fewer numbers or modern assets, other companies might go bust, while some might chose to register… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Lusty
Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
2 months ago
Reply to  Lusty

Thanks for the expansion mate.

We also have the Points too already in use. Pity they dropped 2 of them.

Graham b
Graham b
1 month ago

Only a small proportion would be available at short notice. They would be spread around the world loaded abd heading somewhere m. Others would be being serviced and others would have priority tasks. Also you cannot suddenly remove all ships from the same route at the same time especially RORO Remember the falklands deployment was very fast. Ships had extra capabilities added E g refueling and Comms and deployed in a few days. The whole war was conducted in the time it would take to get from Australia.

Andy P
Andy P
2 months ago

I’m assuming its because it will be cheaper to register them in the Cayman Islands or wherever. The UK is maybe a bit pricier, another thing for the government to juggle

Lusty
Lusty
2 months ago
Reply to  Andy P

This list includes vessels registered in the Cayman Islands.

Andy P
Andy P
2 months ago
Reply to  Lusty

Cheers Lusty, that does put a different spin on it all, at least to me.

Lusty
Lusty
2 months ago
Reply to  Andy P

No worries. Overseas territories do make up the bulk of military useful vessels. I suspect the shipping companies have their own reasons for that, but the main thing is the vessels are still available, should the need arise.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
2 months ago
Reply to  Lusty

Wasn’t Dilligence an ex 82 STUFT?

Lusty
Lusty
2 months ago

Yup, as well as Argus.

Donaldson
Donaldson
2 months ago

Yup along with Argus

Tommo
Tommo
1 month ago

I think either Dil or Argus started life as a Ro Ro ferry roll on roll off Daniele

P Brace
P Brace
1 month ago
Reply to  Lusty

Would they be available? I suspect when it comes to it, the owners of the offshore vessels would not be very patriotic. They are happy to get free protection from the RN, but not willing to help pay for it.

Tommo
Tommo
1 month ago
Reply to  P Brace

The Stennas Seaspread and inspector both played their part I was on Seaspread in 87 Navy Party 2010

TabYomper
TabYomper
2 months ago

A pointless article,so we have 584 ships to move what maybe 10,000 soldiers at a push.Build more warships or at least put the right mix of weapons on them.Two OPVs are on there way to give assurance to countries that are at risk from China.They will be there for 5 years armed with nothing more than a cannon.There will never be another mass movement of troops by sea ever again in a war situation.Put 2000 troops on a cruise liner and watch the enemy drone take it out.

Robert Blay.
Robert Blay.
1 month ago
Reply to  TabYomper

OPV’s are not for high end warfare fighting.

TabYomper
TabYomper
1 month ago
Reply to  Robert Blay.

Exactly, they shouldn’t be sent to an area of the world where tensions are at the highest on the seas. They would be a sitting duck. Even our high end ships are not as heavily armed as other navies ships. It seems to be the British way of not learning from conflicts like the Falklands where ships were undergunned. I’d rather fewer ships went to sea but they were armed to the maximum. At the end of the day sailors die because there not high end ships.

Robert Blay
Robert Blay
1 month ago
Reply to  TabYomper

What I’m trying to say is OPV’s are for constabulary duties. Chasing drug runners, anti piracy, migrant smuggling ect. They are not expected to face down the PLAN. They are to keep a presence in that part of the world. And a warships capability isnt measured solely on it’s weapons. These are very capable and flexible assets.

TabYomper
TabYomper
1 month ago
Reply to  Robert Blay

With that response you could be an MP.

Robert Blay
Robert Blay
1 month ago
Reply to  TabYomper

😄 No thanks. Just ex RN.

Tommo
Tommo
1 month ago
Reply to  TabYomper

The Falklands, came out of the blue, but we did learn one thing from that ,Nylon action working dress number 8ts were note flame resistant

Tommo
Tommo
1 month ago
Reply to  TabYomper

Good old Canberra did the job in San Carlos against piloted aircraft

TabYomper
TabYomper
1 month ago
Reply to  Tommo

Technology has moved on since those days and cruise ships will never be put in harms way again.

Tommo
Tommo
1 month ago
Reply to  TabYomper

But that’s what we thought , we were trained back then for war a,gainst the Warsaw pact with Allies with Airbridge from Nirth Amerca Not with STUFT .74days in 82 we astounded ourselves at what can be done with such short notice

Sean McIlvenie
Sean McIlvenie
1 month ago
Reply to  Tommo

Wasn’t Uganda there too?

Tommo
Tommo
1 month ago
Reply to  Sean McIlvenie

Yes indeed Uganda the School visit ship was STUFT for Corporate minus schoolchildren though Uganda ,took the place,of Britainnia as a hospital ship

Peter Hack
Peter Hack
1 month ago
Reply to  TabYomper

Exactly these carriers are a massive waste of money.

Farouk
Farouk
2 months ago

I was chatting to a neighbour of mine, he’s Latvian and he complained about the state of British roads. The reason British roads are in crap state is down to MPs subscribing to the view that road no matter how poor they become will still work allowing them to spend money on their pet causes, benefits, foreign aid, NHS, themselves, it’s the same with the Military, they see a weapon system they are told it’s the best in the world and cut back on things, servicing , upgrades, because they are told its the best in the world and then… Read more »

Robert Blay.
Robert Blay.
1 month ago
Reply to  Farouk

I wouldn’t describe the NHS, foreign Aid & Benifits as pet causes. And MP’s get paid peanuts compared to private sector equivalents.

Damo
Damo
1 month ago
Reply to  Robert Blay.

Your neighbour sounds like a well traveled individual. No way he can be comparing to Latvian roads unless theyve done them all up in the last few years

Tommo
Tommo
1 month ago
Reply to  Damo

Our roads aren’t use too ponies and carts that don’t use pneumatic tyres maybe that’s why the gentleman was complaining

David Steeper
David Steeper
2 months ago

Remember when Stena Impero happened Shell reflagged it’s tankers off the Uk register. That can’t have helped but it makes me wonder what the consequences for them were. Were we escorting any ships that asked for it or only Uk flagged ?

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
1 month ago
Reply to  David Steeper

As with the tanker war, navies have been escorting there own flagged vessels… What then happens is every man and his dog jumps onto the end of the escort convoy for freebie cover.

David Steeper
David Steeper
1 month ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

Thanks. 

Tommo
Tommo
1 month ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

Yeah 1988 there was a Crocodile (convoy) ready to go through the straits with Naval escort when Mv Torbay Sliced Hms Southsampton almost through between Seadart, and bridge we on our little Hunt ended up escorting her back to Jebal Ali what a Fxxk up that was Lloyd’s weren’t too happy

Jolly Jack
Jolly Jack
2 months ago

Why did British Shipping Company’s stop registered Ships in UK.
Why did the government take away the perks
from British Merchant Seamen.
The money they is a pittance for what we lost an what we can call the British Merchant Navy!?0

geoff
geoff
1 month ago

When I arrived in Durban in 1963 almost every ship in harbour flew the Red Ensign and the British Merchant Fleet was the worlds largest. The decline came with the introduction of flags of convenience-notably Panama and Liberia initially. The rationale was obvious-rules applying to the running of British vessels and the comparitively much higher wages of British seaman(not to mention the troublesome British Dockworkers) caused merchant ships to flee from British Registry. i would guess that nowadays organisations such as the EU would regulate the use of convenience flags so the trend might be reversed? Still a sizeable fleet… Read more »

David
David
1 month ago
Reply to  geoff

Panama’s “Open registry” started in 1919, and Liberia’s in 1948. So flags of convenience were around long before 1963. What seems to have happened is not that British shipping companies outflagged their vessels, but that the companies simply folded or were taken over by foreign lines. Bit like so much of British industry……

Frank62
Frank62
1 month ago

We also have but a fraction of the warships we had back in 1982, so we couldn’;t protect the numbers of STUFT we had available back then or really now even with less. Pen pusher bean counters like to think a modern warship can do the work of several older warships, but they can’t be in more than one place at a time & once sunk, renedered ineffective by damage or breakdowns, or lured away by crafty enemy ruses they can do nothing.

Tommo
Tommo
1 month ago
Reply to  Frank62

Exactly lovely ships all the bells and whistles that make Whitehall penpushing elite go weak at the knees they don’t actually see these all singing and dancing assets except in glossy sales brochures At least in 82 older warships faired better than 21s and 42s .DLGs took a pounding but carried on the fight as did older Frigates .It seems We as a maritime nation have Forgotten how to build ships that can Fight and Float now it seems ships are built to look good , but have trouble completing a deployment with having to have major repairs 45s one… Read more »

Robert Blay
Robert Blay
1 month ago
Reply to  Tommo

Today’s T45’s and T23’s are far more survivable than warships of the past And are far more capable to fight and survive. Vast improvements not just in weapon systems, but fire fighting and damage control and crews training and experience. The RN learned a vast amount from the Falklands war. As for the T45 you mentioned, these things happen to all Navy’s. I’ve served on Invincible class carrier’s that had to pull from exercises due to break downs, or operate on 2 engines instead of 4. Shit happens, you deal with it. Extremely complex warships break down from time to… Read more »

Tommo
Tommo
1 month ago
Reply to  Robert Blay

Thanks for your info I served my time in the Andrew ,nothing negative about my Attitude it was just putting across how during OP Corporate 21s and 42s didn’t fare as well as older ships I just hope lessons in design and survivability have been learnt I just pray we never get caught short again I myself served on Invincible , through deck cruisers, there’s a design flaw fwd centre line lift what was that all about Hermes got it right fwd side lift with aft centre line lift our new carriers QE have side lifts so something must of… Read more »

Robert Blay
Robert Blay
1 month ago
Reply to  Tommo

The Invincible class was originally designed to operated helicopters only. They would carry SeaKing ASW out into the North Atlantic to chase away Soviet subs. After the cancellation of the CVA01 carrier, some far sighted bods in the RN realised the Invincible class could operate fixed wing Sea Harrier’s, and fixed wing fast jet operations lived on. But yes, the fwd lift was not in a ideal position. But they proved to be very capable vessels. Back in 2002 we squeezed on 17 Harriers and 6 helicopters. A very busy flight deck.

Tommo
Tommo
1 month ago
Reply to  Robert Blay

First draft was Hermes worked bomblifts when she was a flat top ASW doubled as the Marines cruise ship 76

Tommo
Tommo
1 month ago
Reply to  Robert Blay

If the government at the time had gone ahead with the carrier programme CVA -01 and commissioned the 6 type 82s would Galtiare have invaded the Falklands who knows but a presence like that around the world he might of thought twice A BIG IF ?

Tommo
Tommo
1 month ago
Reply to  Robert Blay

Now the people’s party at the Guardian reading Red fag waving BBC have Jumped on the T45 Daring Class bandwagon First thing they stated was the 1 bn price tag and out of the 6 only1 is operational , 1 have just left Pompey undertow back to Birkenhead for machinery overhaul I’ll bet their all rubbing their hands with glee and quoffing license paying booze . Ruined my breakfast and put my foot through the telly and have sent the BBC the bill

Bluemoonday
Bluemoonday
1 month ago

Relax. The National Flagship will soon come sailing to the rescue.

Tommo
Tommo
1 month ago
Reply to  Bluemoonday

So long as she can double as hospital ship as,was the Brittiania except she wasn’t STUFT for OP Corporate due to fuel for her engine’s (oh,Really) Mv Uganda stepped up and did Sterling work

Marked
Marked
1 month ago

Just matches the decline in absolutely everything else then!

Tomartyr
Tomartyr
1 month ago

Cue Theresa May blaming everyone else:

Paddy Barratt
Paddy Barratt
1 month ago

The drop in available transport is far less than the equipment that might need transporting

John Hartley
John Hartley
1 month ago

Prescott got a tiny tax break out of Brown & it provided a useful boost to British Merchant shipping. Time for another one perhaps? Given how much stuff travels by sea, shipping needs to be seen as a strategic asset.

Tommo
Tommo
1 month ago
Reply to  John Hartley

But I never saw him when he became Lord Prescott driving his Jags with fluttering Red ensigns bonnet mascots like Union Royalty But he could narf throw a punch hadn’t forgotten his roots

Peter Hack
Peter Hack
1 month ago

There is zero requirement for an Armada; this posits a ridiculous initial framework re Global Britain; so what, so what, so what ? MacMillan was right all along; Europe is our sphere and framework for any defence requirement or analysis; Winds of Change and all that ?

Tommo
Tommo
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter Hack

But Mac millans catch phrase was “You’ve never had it so good” and then president De gullue Black balled the UK from joining the EEC that’s cross Channel friendship in action

Peter Hack
Peter Hack
1 month ago
Reply to  Tommo

De Gaulle judged that the UK would always be subservient to the USA and would never be “community minded”; a judgement that runs across time ?

Tommo
Tommo
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter Hack

Yeah then France waited until the end of the cold War to join Nato

Peter Hack
Peter Hack
1 month ago
Reply to  Tommo

Lets put it another way clearly Iraq and Afghanistan were military successes ; we focus our resources in Europe ? My father served in WW11 in India and all his friends in the FO and service mens clubs oppposed a return East of Suez. Lesson learned again ?

Tommo
Tommo
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter Hack

We were th first Naval warship to pull into Aden in 88 and had a reception in the British Embassy it was the only Diplomatic residence that had high outside walls topped with barbed wire that’s how welcome the Brits are in that neck of the woods so yes after the debacle of the Anglo French Seuz campaign our standing in the Arab world was completely destroyed