Operational experience in the 1990s (Gulf War, Bosnia ... ) demonstrated the difficulties the Ministry of Defence (MoD) had in rapidly obtaining and chartering suitable ships to move military equipment in the short timescales demanded by the Joint Rapid Reaction Forces and for supporting the Armed Forces’ needs in operations worldwide.

The Strategic Defence Review 1998 identified a need for six Roll-On Roll-Off vessels (Ro-Ro) to give an improved strategic sealift capability to support the Joint Rapid Reaction Forces and one of those six, the Hartland Point, has been moored in Palma for the past few days after having taken part in the NATO Exercise Trident Juncture 2015 in the Mediterranean.

Vehicles that can be carried on the ships include Challenger 2 tanks, AS90 self-propelled howitzers, Warrior infantry combat vehicles and many other types of armoured and unarmoured military vehicles. The six vessels are all named after UK lighthouses, wear the green and white livery of AWSR Shipping Ltd. and fly the red ensign.

The first of them, the Hurst Point, was launched exactly on time at Flensburg in April 2002 and was delivered for service in August. Also in August 2002, a second ship, the Eddystone, was launched at Flensburg, and the Longstone and Beachy Head followed. Meanwhile, the Hartland Point was floated in Belfast and delivered in the autumn of 2002, followed by the second Harland & Wolff ship, the Anvil Point.

Trident Juncture, one of the largest NATO exercises since the end of the Cold War, ended with a flourish at the end of last week as US Marines moved from sea to land in the first large-scale tryout of a new Corps effort that puts American quick-strike forces aboard NATO-allied ships. For NATO, the focus on maritime quick-strike capabilities comes as allies examine how to enhance their presence around the Mediterranean, where Russia has a growing naval presence.