With little mention of the future of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary in the latest Defence White Paper, the service seems to have once again evaded the wholesale privatisation that many had feared.
The optimistic outlook stems from a lack of interest from the commercial shipping sector in acquiring the existing RFA flotilla or taking on both the capital and operating risks. Whilst there is scope for some market efficiency savings from the contracting out of some RFA roles, overall the MoD found insufficient evidence in favour of changing the current RFA business model.
There will, however, be an inevitable reduction in fleet numbers in line with cuts made to the size of the Royal Navy. Three ships, Bayleaf, Fort George and Largs Bay, are to be withdrawn from service in April 2011.
The last of these has already attractedmuch interest, with Australia eyeing it as a ready replacement for the retiring HMAS Tobruk, and Chile also in the market for a versatile amphibiousship.