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Should the royal navy have a real hospital ship?

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Should the royal navy have a real hospital ship?

Postby shark bait » 20 Dec 2015, 17:04

A recent discussion made me think, is it time for the Royal Navy to have a real hospital ship?
I think the military, foreign aid and political benefits of a hospital ship are well recognised and as such is probably be something we try and pursue.

Image
The Chinese navy hospital ship "Peace Ark" sailing with the USN 6th fleet

With the 2024 out of service date for RAF Argus approaching we would like to hope back of the napkin plans are being drawn up for her replacement, however any mention of this was absent from the recent SDSR. Perhaps the retirement of Argus, our current casualty receiving and training ship, presents an opportunity for us to sail a real hospital ship under the Blue Ensign.

I would suggest replacing Argus with 2 separate platforms, focusing on a single role. This goes against my normal thinking of pushing for multi-role assets, but in this instance I think a specialised hospital ship, as well as a dedicated training ship, is the better option.

One of the concepts I quite liked from DSEI is the French training ship VN Partisan, provided by Seaowl, which I dont think I've seen discussed around here. Such a ship has the potential to replace the training element conducted by Argus. The concept is a cheap offshore supply vessel conversion that can be used for aviation training, boarding training, technology development and in support roles. It seems like a nice model from the French, something I think we would be wise to follow.

An offshore supply vessel conversion is also a sound option for the replacement of RAF diligence, it would make sense to base both of these future ships of the same platform for added commonality bonus points!

Image
The french training ship VN Partisan

So that brings me on to the replacement of Hospital role of Argus. Right now Argus cannot be called a hospital ship, which is why I think we should separate the roles of Argus, so we can have a fully fledged hospital ship.

I think a good model to follow for this ship would be Africa Mercy, operated by the charity mercy ships. The Africa Mercy is a converted RORO ferry, which gives it excellent capabilities deploy its resources inshore, reaching more people in need. Such features would be useful for our hospital ship, adopting a commercial design, with commercial equipment will of course lower procurement and support costs. The RORO features would also prove useful, not only for the medical roles, but also for the delivery of foreign aid. I think it is fully possible such a ship could be sent to a disaster zone, loaded with UK foreign aid, to provide both supplies and medical support to those who need it, and this can be achieved without using a military auxiliary that is better deployed on military tasking.

As usual the problem with such a suggestion is money. I have often seen it suggested the the foreign aid budget should just buy the MOD equipment. Not only is that totally against the DFID rules, I think it is conceptually wrong. We should not expect one of the worlds top democracies (Check the list https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy_Index) to be spending aid money on military equiptment, that sounds like a very shady business and is totally unacceptable.

The lines between military and aid are slightly blurred with a hospital ship. It certainly isn't a warfighting asset, but I think it is clearly an asset with military value, and as it would be operated by the RFA I think it is tipped onto the military asset side. As such it is wrong to expect the DFID to purchase the RFA equipment, we wouldn't expect them to buy the RAF C-17’s would we.

However the DFID has always reimbursed the MOD for the use of its assets when they are tasked to deliver foreign aid, so this model should be followed and creates a method to fund a new hospital ship. The RFA should build and operate a hospital ship under a PFI. Under this agreement the ship is a fully commissioned RFA owned and operated asset, but with no upfront cost. Most of the time the ship will be tasked with delivering foreign aid, or providing medical assistance, such as the excellent work by ship and crew treating ebola. During tasking like these the DFID pays the MOD, using the longstanding model, which covers the repayments on the PFI. During these times it costs the MOD nothing. When their is a military need for a hospital ship it can be retasked, and now the MOD pays the PFI.

How much would this cost? lets do some woolly maths.

The annual cost of the charter for HMS Endurance was £8.7m
The annual operational costs for RAF Argus is £8.9m

So we can expect the cost of this hospital ship to be around £17m annually

The DFDI budget is £11.1bn in this year, so if we funded 90% of two hospital ships from this budget, it would take up just 0.28% of the budget. That is a tiny proportion of the budget, for what is a very visible product of the public's contribution to foreign aid, and a great ambassador for Britain.
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Re: Should the royal navy have a real hospital ship?

Postby arfah » 20 Dec 2015, 18:01

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Re: Should the royal navy have a real hospital ship?

Postby marktigger » 20 Dec 2015, 23:21

there are military-legal draw backs to hospital ships especially in the era of AShM that cannot differentiate between types of vessels. Argus is a very flexible platform it can be used for a variety of roles one being PCRS.

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Re: Should the royal navy have a real hospital ship?

Postby Repulse » 21 Dec 2015, 09:22

As posted elsewhere, I hope that the future MARS FSS will have enhanced aviation and medical facilities. I would also like to see an Albion replacement late 2020s with medical facilities that would help fill the gap left. Having said that I wouldn't go for the classic 20-30k ton LHD, but more (say 4) smaller LPDs along the lines of a slightly extended / updated San Giusto class.

In addition I would also look at a containerised hospital that could be deployed on STUFT in a Falklands scenario.
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Re: Should the royal navy have a real hospital ship?

Postby seaspear » 21 Dec 2015, 09:33

Looking at it in another way if a hospital ship that could be designed for emergencies as per Liberia and able to be used in other disaster zones when hospitals have been rendered neglible ,there could be many other examples of uses, a ship that could be able to have some amphibious capabilities, helicopter access there might be need for more than one ship, but if this ship was to come out of the foreign aid budget and only in cases of extreme be sequestered to miltary activity they might get ordered

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Re: Should the royal navy have a real hospital ship?

Postby Tiny Toy » 21 Dec 2015, 10:27

There is a good in-depth rationale of why building a hospital ship would be a good idea here. Especially soft power projection of hospital ships is great.

It should NOT be operated by the RN. It should be operated by the RFA and funded by DfID.

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Re: Should the royal navy have a real hospital ship?

Postby Pseudo » 21 Dec 2015, 10:59

Tiny Toy wrote:There is a good in-depth rationale of why building a hospital ship would be a good idea [url=http&#58;//www&#46;savetheroyalnavy&#46;org/the-case-for-building-a-british-hospital-ship/]here[/url]. Especially soft power projection of hospital ships is great.

It should NOT be operated by the RN. It should be operated by the RFA and funded by DfID.

That's my opinion. Two dedicated hospital ships paid for the DfID would provide very visible soft power both overseas and at home. Cameron often struggles to justify the size of the foreign aid budget because a lot of what it does isn't immediately visible, but these ships would provide much more tangible examples than statistics about the amount of aid distributed ever could.

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Re: Should the royal navy have a real hospital ship?

Postby shark bait » 21 Dec 2015, 11:00

Tiny Toy wrote:Especially soft power projection of hospital ships is great.

It should NOT be operated by the RN. It should be operated by the RFA and funded by DfID.


Indeed it is, we continually here the UK is a big soft power player, a hospital ship would be a great way to reinforce this.

My suggestion is very much for a joint venture between the RFA and the DfID, such an asset clearly has a large utility for deploying foreign and flag flying, as well as a military role.

There is always STUFT, but that will never be able to offer the facility of a real hospital ship, nether would a containerized solution. If a hospital ship could be funded jointly with the DfID, with little burden on the MOD's resources during peace time it would be very much worthwhile.

Pseudo wrote: Cameron often struggles to justify the size of the foreign aid budget because a lot of what it does isn't immediately visible, but these ships would provide much more tangible examples than statistics about the amount of aid distributed ever could.


Completely agree, news images of our hospital ships responding to the ebola crisis, or Haiti earthquake for example would be very visible evidence of where our taxes are spend, as well as providing a valuable contribution to recovery of the affected area, all without using the main auxiliaries. The billions we spend often disappear through NGO's without a clear link to the DfID.
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Re: Should the royal navy have a real hospital ship?

Postby Pseudo » 21 Dec 2015, 11:31

I suppose that it'd be absolutely wrong to suggest converting Albion and Bulwark in to hospital ships and replacing them in RN service with a couple of LHD's. :evil: :D

More seriously, what would we do if we were to procure hospital ships for DfID? Would we build them from scratch or convert tankers? It appears that there's quite a lot of tankers lying idle at the minute, so maybe we could pick a couple up relatively cheaply and convert them.

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Re: Should the royal navy have a real hospital ship?

Postby shark bait » 21 Dec 2015, 11:53

Pseudo wrote:More seriously, what would we do if we were to procure hospital ships for DfID? Would we build them from scratch or convert tankers? It appears that there's quite a lot of tankers lying idle at the minute, so maybe we could pick a couple up relatively cheaply and convert them.


Lots of options, and probably depends on how much money is available. Could convert tankers and have massive ships like the Americans, could have a purpose built new ship like the Chinese, a converted ferry like mercy ships, or a new build hospital derived from the solid support ship. The solid support ship may have some desirable features for a hospital ship such as RORO, and aviation support.
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Re: Should the royal navy have a real hospital ship?

Postby arfah » 21 Dec 2015, 16:40

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Re: Should the royal navy have a real hospital ship?

Postby shark bait » 21 Dec 2015, 22:04

arfah wrote:A hospital ship doesn't need to be operated by the RFA.
........
However, I doubt DFID has the spare liquidity to fund a pedalo with a spare field dressing.


Quite right, it doesn't have to be part of the RFA, that is just one option.
The DFID is not in the business of operating ships.
The RFA is in the business of operating ships, delivering aid, hosting medics and supporting military operations, which quite accurately fits the domain of a hospital ship.
Of course the DFID could fund an NGO to do the same thing, but then it doesn't have the same soft power projection, or military benifits.

I would also dispute the the availability of funds. Their budget is set to grow by half a billion this year, and then more year on year. I would suggest that if the intent was there, the funds would be too.
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Re: Should the royal navy have a real hospital ship?

Postby arfah » 21 Dec 2015, 22:20

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Re: Should the royal navy have a real hospital ship?

Postby shark bait » 21 Dec 2015, 22:34

arfah wrote:A hospital ship has no military benefits due to its protective status.

RFA would be a waste of personnel on a hospital ship.


I think wounded service men and women would disagree with that.

If you read my suggestion, I am not proposing the RFA spend their limited and valuable resources on this, rather a joint venture.
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Re: Should the royal navy have a real hospital ship?

Postby arfah » 21 Dec 2015, 22:58

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Re: Should the royal navy have a real hospital ship?

Postby shark bait » 21 Dec 2015, 23:03

arfah wrote:I'll try again, "A hospital ship is NOT a 'military' asset due to its protective status under the laws of armed conflict."


OK I see what you mean. It may not officially be a military asset, but it is an asset that is of value to the military, as well as UK aid

arfah wrote:After evacuation to a hospital ship a casualty Is repatriated to the host nation and is not allowed to return to the military operation or war zone.

Which is why it is a waste of time crewing with RN/RFA matelots.


Interestingly I have never found any reference to this, despite it being passed around on this forum. The closest I can find is below which states if the wounded are treated by the enemy, who acts charitably and returns the casualties to their home county they cannot re-enter active service.

I can't find any mention that a causality treated by a friendly hospital cannot return to service, providing they are deemed able to do so.

Subject to the provisions of Article 12, the wounded, sick and shipwrecked of a belligerent who fall into enemy hands shall be pri-soners of war, and the provisions of international law concerning prisoners of war shall apply to them. The captor may decide, according to circumstances, whether it is expedient to hold them, or to convey them to a port in the captor's own country, to a neutral port or even to a port in enemy territory. In the last case, prisoners of war thus returned to their home country may not serve for the duration of the war.
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Re: Should the royal navy have a real hospital ship?

Postby seaspear » 22 Dec 2015, 05:38

Would a purpose built hospital ship for the military have the usage to be justified ,a large dual use either civilian hospital for emergency response or troop transport at other times may be more effective ,a large vessel with landing craft and placement for appropriate numbers and types of helicopters depending on role could meet the occassional need

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Re: Should the royal navy have a real hospital ship?

Postby arfah » 22 Dec 2015, 06:16

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Re: Should the royal navy have a real hospital ship?

Postby shark bait » 22 Dec 2015, 10:24

seaspear wrote:Would a purpose built hospital ship for the military have the usage to be justified ,a large dual use either civilian hospital for emergency response or troop transport at other times may be more effective ,a large vessel with landing craft and placement for appropriate numbers and types of helicopters depending on role could meet the occassional need


Yes to civilian hospitals and emergency response. The Americans regularly use theirs for this.I think that would be the biggest use of such a vessel, reinforcing our soft power and acting as an ambassador to the UK.

No to troop transport, the SS uganda used as a hospital ship for the UK had to renounce its hospital ship status and pain over its red crosses befor transporting troops back to the UK.

arfah wrote:It's part of the 1907 Hague Conventions.


Thats the thing, I have not found any reference of that during my reading, do you have a source ?
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Re: Should the royal navy have a real hospital ship?

Postby seaspear » 22 Dec 2015, 11:58

I was thinking along the lines of something of a similar size to a Canberra class with modifications allowing easy conversion when required to a large hospital facility/ship when needed , and had all of that classes capabilities after modifications changed again

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Re: Should the royal navy have a real hospital ship?

Postby arfah » 22 Dec 2015, 12:21

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Re: Should the royal navy have a real hospital ship?

Postby Tiny Toy » 22 Dec 2015, 13:13

arfah wrote:https://www.icrc.org/ihl/INTRO/195

Website says 'no'

The ICRC website is currently down. However your link appears to be to Convention IV which is about land warfare (Convention respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land). The relevant part of the 1907 Hague Conventions is Convention X: Convention for the Adaptation to Maritime Warfare of the Principles of the Geneva Convention (of 6 July 1906), which was never ratified by the UK, and was in any case superseded by the Second Geneva Convention, which was ratified by the UK. You can read the whole text of that here - Chapter III deals with hospital ships, and I can find no reference to non-POW casualties having to be repatriated and unable to return to the theatre. If you can, please share the article number.

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Re: Should the royal navy have a real hospital ship?

Postby arfah » 22 Dec 2015, 13:52

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Re: Should the royal navy have a real hospital ship?

Postby Tiny Toy » 22 Dec 2015, 15:29

arfah wrote:From a mate who's still military.

"The Geneva Convention calls for any soldier injured and evacuated from the battlefield to be repatriated via a third country."

Whether your mate is military or not makes no difference, they can still be misinformed. Again, the Conventions are widely available, please quote the exact convention and article that says this.

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Re: Should the royal navy have a real hospital ship?

Postby arfah » 22 Dec 2015, 15:31

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