The Royal Navy is increasingly relying on “cannibalizing” vessel parts in order to keep the fleet afloat, a report by a UK government watchdog has found.
The National Audit Office (NAO) has reported a massive jump in Royal Navy ships and submarines “cannibalizing” parts in order to go to sea and the practice has increased by 49 percent over the past five years. It also found that the construction of the submarine HMS Artful had been delayed because parts had been “borrowed.”
The Royal Navy has been massively reduced from its heyday in the 1940s and the current fleet has only 19 frigates and destroyers and seven attack submarines.
Many of these ships have been struggling to go to sea because of a lack of spare parts, according to the NAO report.
In one case, the construction of the new submarine HMS Artful was delayed by 42 days because other subs had “borrowed” key parts. This also added another £5 million (US$6.6 million) to the cost of its construction.
In February, it was reported that all seven of the Navy’s nuclear submarines were out of action due to repairs or breakdowns.
Thousands of ‘Borrowing’ Incidents
In the 2016, there were 795 occasions when spare parts were borrowed from other vessels, and 3,230 instances overall since 2012.
The NAO said that although “cannibalizing” was often the only way to get a ship ready to go to sea it also cost taxpayers an extra £40 million (US$53 million).
“In the past two years, the Navy has removed an estimated £92 million [US$122 million] from its maritime support in-year budgets,” said the NAO report.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) does not routinely monitor the impact of “cannibalization” across the Navy but “considers and assesses equipment cannibalization and trends over time for individual vessel types.”
Lack of Accountability
The NAO criticized the Navy for having no overall accountability for managing equipment cannibalization and said this “information gap” made it difficult to determine when equipment cannibalization is becoming routine.
Lord West a former First Sea Lord, said the report was “extremely worrying.”
“It reflects my view that there is a dreadful hollowing out going on in defense,” he told the Daily Telegraph.
“We continue to make improvements to how we manage this long-established practice,” said a Royal Navy spokesperson.