Barring a number of relatively minor problems, the Fishery Protection Squadron must be considered an efficient unit. Support staff and facilities, shared with the Captain, Mine Counter-Measures, are based at Rosyth. centred upon LOCHINVAR Block, named in memory of the old base at Port Edgar, across the Firth of Forth.
The greatest criticism which can be expressed concerns the staff, which, if anything, display a loading far too much in favour of purely naval matters and not enough on the fishery side, No officer who has served recently in command in the FPS is on the staff and their actual practical expertise in fishery protection is not such as to be of any service to the ships at sea. Although ships requiring instructions such as whether or not to arrest a fishing vessel request advice from FPS, the latter merely act as a staging post for MAFF or DAFS and do not in fact constitute an esssen tial part of the command chain.
There is some confusion apparent in the training programme for the ISLAND class, largely because the latter have no clear war role. The obvious solution is to work the ships up wholly and solely for fishery duties, but against this must be put the requirement to maintain the state of naval training of the ships' personnel. The TON class MCMV have, of course, no such problem and frequently exercise themselves in sweeping techniques while on patrol.
The initial training of Commanding and Executive Officers for fishery work is very good indeed. A three week fish' course is run by the Ministries concerned and this covers the whole range of fishing methods, fish identification, boarding techniques and legal problems. The standard of knowledge of the graduates is very impressive and their expertise is consolidated by the practice whereby a civilian fisheries inspector accompanies them to sea on their first patrol and qualifies them as British Sea Fisheries Officers. The First Lieutenant is normally the Boarding Officer, accompanied by the Correspondence Officer (CORRO) or Midshipman, if the latter is borne. The ISLANDS often aim to have two officers qualified as inspectors in order to be able to conduct double boardings, thereby speeding the inspection task greatly. The average ISLAND will conduct in the region of 120 boardings a year, the TON class rather less.
The morale of the crews is generally reasonable, despite all the difficulties of the situation. Many of the ratings are Scots or 'Geordies' and have volunteered for the area and the duty. What major problems which do occur seem to be confined to officers. The RN is certainly open to criticism for its policy of posting an officer straight from his OW (Stage III) Courses to a TON for a billet job as NO or CORRO or to an ISLANDas CORRO and keeping him there for 18 months. This is a grave mistake, for although it may do much for an officer's confidence and self-reliance, it robs him of the essential experience of fleet work and big ship routines. Certainly a far better programme would be to have such officers for only 8-9months in the FPS. sending them on to frigates or destroyers thereafter.
The task is, in the long term, an arduous and monotonous one. Patrols interspersed with maintenance periods provide relatively little light relief and amusement — what would be a delightful routine in, say, the climate of the Barrier Reef, becomes very hard work in the north of Scotland. This problem is fully appreciated by the authorities. Spurred on by the present C-in-C Fleet, Admiral Sir James Eberle, who has declared that the RN should have more 'Fun in the sun', the FPS ships are allowed a summer holiday', with a visit to a European port of their choice. In another, associated measure, OPVs now do short maintenance periods in Gibraltar.
A third step has been to reduce the sea-time required from ratings from the standard 27 months before shore posting to 18 months The workload and routines more than justify this decision and, indeed, the case could be made for the FPS to run on an 18 month (or less) commission per ship with block drafting in the old fashion. The rule supposedly applied to officers is that no one should do more than one winter in the squadron, but it seems that this is more honoured in the breach than the observance.