It is Merchant Navy Day on Monday . Britain's households would soon notice if the ships that bring our imports of food, consumer goods and fuel, failed to arrive at a UK port every few minutes of every day, as is the case now, when all is well. Retail shops' shelves would soon be nearly empty, as would the local filling station and soon the car's tank and the bus. Heating in winter would become tricky, too.
The world's seas have a number of narrow choke points, such as the Strait of Hormuz, and some are very close to rogue states and unstable or unfriendly governments. Earlier this week, the American aircraft carrier USS John C Stennis sailed from the US west coast for the Gulf, as tensions between Israel and Iran increase. She will join another supercarrier already in the region. Deterrence is good policy, and being prepared for things going awry is smart too.
The UK will be lucky if sea trade remains uninterrupted, given the manifold troubles in the Pacific Ocean, the Horn of Africa, the Gulf and the eastern Mediterranean. Let's hope the US Navy is able to do a good job for America and, in so doing, help the UK too. News that India is to buy three warships at a cost of £1bn brings sharply into focus that the UK gives £280m a year in aid, a sum that India considers peanuts and obviously does not need.
As the Royal Navy has insufficient frigates to play its full part in contributing to the safeguarding and security of the world's sea lanes – the protection of trade – why not spend that money on a new frigate every year instead of giving it to India?
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(Lieutenant-Commander RN, retired