The australian naval institute

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Inevitably the question must arise as to whether the Fishery Protection Squadron's duties can more adequately be carried out by a Coast Guard on the model of that of the United States. The answer seems to be Yes. but it must be stressed that such a conclusion is hedged about with reservations and that it should in no way betaken as evidence that Aus­tralia should establish a Coast Guard

There are a number of reasons for arguing in favour of a British Coast Guard, but not an Australian one. First, and most important, the duties of the FPS are primarily commercial and economic, removal of the FPS to a Coast Guard would not mean any real reduction in the military surveillance effort around Britain. To create an Australian Coast Guard would definitely result in a degradation of the defence information gathering network in the North of Australia

Page 50 Journal ol tne Australian Naval Institute

Second, there is the element of scale. Were the functions of the FPS, the DAFS units at sea, the seaborne Customs and excise pa­trols, the present HM Coast Guard, Service SAR units and Trinity House to be combined a true 'Fourth Service' would be brought into being. In Australia such a Service would be far too small to be a workable proposition and would in any case drain both the RAN and RAAF of their limited fighting strength. The RAN's patrol boats, unsophisticated as they are, constitute a significant part of the Navy's actual and potential fighting strength and would be the front line in the event of any limited conflict in Australia's northern waters.

Third, the environment is completely dif­ferent. There is no doubt at all that relations between British Fishery Protection ships and foreign fishing vessels are far more civilised and are conducted on a far more controlled basis than those in Australia. A fishing vessel which refuses to stop will, even if she reaches her home port, finally be dealt with — can the same be said for a Taiwanese fishing vessel which has the edge of speed over its RAN pursuer?

Fourth, the quality of 'high command' is, for the reasons already discussed, inevitably

higher in Australia. Having been in patrol boat operations for over a decade the RAN has built up considerable expertise and is very inter ested in maintaining such expertise. The FPS is, when all is said and done, not an integral part of the Fleet. The lack of interest in the FPS and the ignorance of its functions among the 'fighting' Fleet are astonishing. The same can-no' be said of the RAN — the criticism that has been levelled that patrol boat command is 'only a stage in an officer's career' is quite mistaken because the fact that success in small ship command is now almost an essen­tial for the RAN seaman officer means that all senior officers will eventually be intimately acquainted with the details of surveillance and fisheries work. It is a great pity that this can never be the case in the Royal Navy, which has become very much bound up in the PWO syn­drome.

Finally, British national fisheries need far more policing than do the Australian. The sal­mon patrols already mentioned are just one example — the scale of operations being so much greater and the problems more comptex than in Australia. The Royal Navy would be well pleased to rid itself of such police duties; the RAN has no such problem.


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