In this space two weeks ago I said that the Royal Navy didn´t have the ships to escort all British tankers operating in the Gulf. This state of affairs was underlined over the weekend when Iranian forces seized a British-owned tanker.
Armchair admirals are already shouting, where was the Royal Navy when it was needed. But to be fair, the Royal Navy only has one major warship in the area and it did make an attempt to stop the hijacking but it was too far away to take any action. There are some questions which the Royal Navy needs to answer, though. Why weren’t Royal Marines provided to British owned tankers in the area to provide some form of protection? They could have deterred any attack from Iranian forces.
Why weren´t helicopters used to patrol the vital shipping lanes? Britain has four minesweepers, based in Bahrain, they could easily have been used as escorts because the threat is minimal and they could have dealt with the small boats used by the Iranians. I think someone, somewhere was asleep on the job because to be fair, more could have been done and Iran has been threatening to hijack a British tanker for weeks now.
The Royal Navy does have limited resources but, to be honest, you do not need a billion pound warship to deter an Iranian vessel which is smaller than a tender to a super yacht. Questions need to be asked because some are saying, quite wrongly or rightly, that the British navy failed in one of its primary tasks.