Royal Fleet Auxiliary (Hansard, 2 March 2004)
HC Deb 02 March 2004 vol 418 c814W
Dr. Julian Lewis

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the suitability of current Royal Fleet Auxiliary oilers for future expeditionary warfare. [146507]

Mr. Ingram

The Royal Fleet Auxiliary operates four classes of oilers (Wave, Leaf, Rover, and Fort Victoria). The two Wave class oilers (Wave Ruler and Wave Knight) entered service in 2003 and will remain operational until after 2025.

The Leaf and Rover classes are due to reach their expected out of service dates by 2011. They are single-hulled and so will be non-compliant with revised Marpol (International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships) regulations on the introduction of double-hulled vessels. The newer Fort Victoria ships are also single-hulled but we are currently considering ways of maintaining compliance with international legislation beyond 2010. While Marpol does not apply to vessels owned or operated by a state and used only on Government non-commercial service, as is the case with the RFA oilers, it remains MOD policy to comply with Shipping Acts and associated regulations where practicable. Consequently, MOD has a programme to phase out all non-compliant RFA vessels with a target date of 2010 based on the earliest practicable point for compliance.

As explained in my answer of 11 February 2004, Official Report, columns 1459–60W, the Department's programme, known as the Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability (MARS) programme, seeks progressively to replace most of the current RFA fleet, including Leaf, Rover, and Fort Victoria class oiler vessels. As part of this, these ships will be replaced by more flexible and capable vessels fully compliant with Marpol. This will significantly enhance the RFA's ability to provide the Royal Navy with its afloat support requirements.