I have just retired from the RFA and consider this a very bad idea. The article in the Times a few days ago spells it out. However although it may save money it will weaken our defence.
This paragraph would on the surface make sense:
The MoD is also considering outsourcing the management of the RFA fleet. This could be given the go-ahead as part of a review into the RFA fleet or it could be introduced solely for the six new vessels. Several groups including James Fisher, the UK’s largest ship broker, Maersk, Serco and VT Group are understood to be interested in managing such a contract.
And this is what these companies will try to bamboozle the government to allow:
More money could be saved if the RFA followed standard commercial practice and hired foreign crew members.
Yes they could do that, but it would be a disaster in many ways.
1) Security: RFA seafarers are vetted to a minimum of "Secret" clearance. (Yours truly is vetted to "Atomic Secret"). How would they be able to vet foreign Nationals. Which ally would work with this level of uncertainty?
2) Training: The average commercial company trains their personnel in basic firefighting. Probably 1/2 hour per week.
RFA training is in advanced firefighting, damage control, Nuclear warfare, chemical warfare, biological warfare, operation of the weapon systems (Yes the ships are armed), Secure communications, Replenishment at sea (Very close manoeuvring of two or more vessels, which would make the average commercial Captain have a heart attack), and many more drills. These are ongoing and extremely thorough. Each ship also has to undergo a gruelling evaluation period on a regular basis which exercises all these parameters. Can you imagine a commercial outfit, costing and training for that?
3) Turnover of personnel: RFA personnel are intensely loyal. They are not just in it for the job. For most it is a vocation.
I could go on, but I'll let readers decide for themselves if privatisation is a good thing or not.
We really are going to Hell in a Handcart under this Government.
Source for the Times article is here.