26. Short-term peaks of tasking, or major deployments,
may require additional shipping over and above the capacity provided
by the Ro-Ro container ships and the LSD(A)s. The first option
to obtain additional shipping is through the use of allied shipping
provided through the Sealift Coordination Centre, which allows
allies to make use of spare capacity from other nations, on a
repayment basis. The MoD stated that the cost of this shipping
was less than for chartered commercial shipping and the capabilities
of the vessels and their condition was well known.
27. When additional sea-lift is required from the
commercial market, a Statement of Requirement is prepared which
sets out the quantity and type of equipment, the timescale and
loading / discharge ports. The Statement of Requirement is submitted
to the market through a panel of brokers and ships offered in
response are evaluated in terms of their technical ability to
achieve the task, safety management and cost.
28. There had been occasions when the commercial
shipping market was busy undertaking other commercial activity.
A need for "surety" is the reason why the MoD has its
own strategic sea-lift assets. Brigadier Mason told us that if
the MoD did not have the Ro-Ro ships and "were looking at
deploying a multi-national force, the other nations would also
be looking for the same commercial shipping". This could
result in the UK not getting what it needed and potentially not
putting the "force elements into theatre in the right order
or, more importantly, the right time".
29. The design of new commercial ships is continuously
changing. Brigadier Mason confirmed that the commercial shipping
market was reducing all the time because ships were getting bigger.
He added that "a lot of the Ro-Ros in the commercial market
are used solely from point A to point B to match the infrastructure
of those ports".
We asked where commercial ships chartered by the MoD would dock
if they were not able to dock at the Marchwood military port in
Hampshire. Brigadier Mason said that in such situations, the MoD
could use commercial ports and had done so in the past.
Ro-Ro ships were used to transport munitions and the MoD had a
number of munitions dock facilities.
30. We asked whether the MoD was chartering shipping
to supplement its own ship-lift capacity for the current operations
in Afghanistan and Iraq. Brigadier Mason told us that "over
the past couple of years we have chartered a number of ships but
not, as far as I am aware, in direct support of Afghanistan or
Iraq". For low
priority stocks, the MoD had a contract for a container ship that
would move containers "full of our stock either to Kuwait
or Karachi and then a civilian firm will move it up country".
31. Brigadier Mason considered that getting access
to commercial shipping was not a problem.
He said that for the first stage of the operation in Iraq (TELIC
1), the MoD had secured what it had required, some 60 ships, "as
a result of foresight because we got in before other nations did".
AVM Leeson added that the Defence Supply Chain Operations and
Movements Centre watched for the "movements, fluctuations
and trends in the marketplace from the point of view of warning
us if there appear to be difficult periods
.on sea-lift by
and large that is not an issue".
In 2006-07, the MoD spent £64 million on sea-lift charter,
which included the Ro-Ro container ships.
32. The MoD
has good arrangements to access commercial shipping and has, to
date, secured the commercial shipping it required to supplement
its own sea-lift capability. However, the commercial shipping
market is reducing. We recommend that the MoD undertake a detailed
analysis of the commercial shipping market with the aim of assessing
whether it will be able to secure access to commercial shipping
in the quantities and timeframes necessary to meet its future