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RN's operations in HK
COMMANDER TIM BURNE, MNI, who is second in command at HMS Tamar, started by first mentioning that the present arrangement with the three branches of the forces in Tamar, Army, Navy and Air Force, came about 10 years ago when the land forces moved in. The present site serves many functions including officers' mess, gymnasium, rifle range, school rooms, church, accommodation, etc. Some 1,300 military personnel work at Tamar, with 50 officers living there. The medical centre looks after 7,000 patients, equivalent in size to a large UK medical practice.
The functions of each service are rationalised; for example, the Army provides the transport facilities for all three services. The Royal Navy administers HMS Tamar and the ferries to Stonecutters. From the operational point of view, the main function of the armed forces is to demonstrate sovereignty, and for the Royal Navy, to assist in the monitoring of territorial waters.
Another important function of the RN is surveillance and the Naval control of shipping, which, for the latter in HK, is carried out by the RNR who have pioneered the use of computers in this area and have been so successful that their system is now being considered for use in other countries.
The RN is also responsible for some berths in Singapore together with fuel supply facilities. Another of the RN's functions is Nusafe, which is activated 12-15 times a year, mainly for visiting US warships, and includes decontamination facilities. Another of those acronyms is Submis/Subsunk, which for a change are self explanatory; the one and only decompression chamber in HK is maintained by the RN in Tamar Another function is to assist in SAR in the HK FIR (did you guess right? FIR = flight information region!)
The Captain in charge of Tamar is also formally the Captain of the Port, which these days means that he has to sit on several government committees. He is also responsible for the arrangement of berths for visiting warships, currently about 120 vessels a year.
Now to the Peacock class warships, of which there are now three left in HK, the other two having being sold off as the HK Marine Police obtained their new large sector command launches. With only three ships they can provide a ship at sea for 276 days a year, with contingency plans for an additional vessel at short notice. The ship's company can expect to be at sea 40 per cent of the time, this availability being more than could be expected from warships during World War II. Each ship carries two Seariders which are used for about 1,000 boardings a year. However, as smuggling is increasing, they now also carry fast pursuit craft (200 hp-60 knots) which were kept on when the Royal Marine raiding party was withdrawn last year. Finally, there is a diving team who are responsible for removing explosives found below the high water mark.
We were told that the redevelopment of Tamar is planned, with Phase I expected to fill in the basin. This will coincide with the reprovisioning to Stonecutters Island in about December 1992. Only the Naval facilities will be moved. Phase II will leave just the Prince of Wales Building (all the rest will be lost to the military), and after the final reclamation is complete this building will be about 0.25 miles from the nearest sea.
Contributed by P. R. Owen, FNI
Seaways April 1991