Royal Yacht it is not: Prince Harry to sleep on tanker vessel during Caribbean tour
Prince Harry will live on a tanker ship during much of his forthcoming Caribbean tour, providing the starkest illustration to date of the need for a new Royal Yacht.
The Prince, 32, will spend 14 days visiting seven countries on behalf of the Queen, travelling between island nations on the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Wave Knight.
He will spend a total of six nights sleeping on the vessel, which will make voyages of up to 20 hours at a time as it takes him to Commonwealth nations including Barbados, St Lucia and Grenada.
But the Prince will not be able to invite guests on board – as members of the Royal family used to when staying on the Royal Yacht Britannia – because “the ship is a working naval vessel”, Kensington Palace said.
The Wave Knight could even be called upon to resume its role in Operation Martillo, an international drug-busting effort across the Caribbean, while Prince Harry is on board. Earlier this month the vessel intercepted a £40 million cocaine shipment.
Theresa May, the Prime Minister, is resisting calls from 100 of her own backbenchers to pay for a cost benefit analysis for a new privately funded royal yacht now Britain is leaving the European Union.
The MPs are hoping that a royal yacht to act as a catalyst for a newly independent Britain to win new trade deals. The Daily Telegraph has started a campaign for a return of a modern-day version of Britannia.
Jake Berry MP, who is leading a Parliamentary campaign for a new royal yacht, said: “Prince Harry is doing important work in the Caribbean.”
“The fact that the Royal Navy has had to make available a tanker which is in short supply demonstrates that a new royal yacht that is fit for purpose for promoting trade is desperately needed by this country.”
The Prince will fly to Antigua to begin his tour next Sunday, November 20, representing the Queen, who longer undertakes long-haul travel, for the 50th anniversary of Barbados’s independence from the UK, the 50th anniversary of Guyana’s independence and the 35th anniversary of the independence of Antigua and Barbuda.
He will also visit St Kitts and Nevis and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The Prince will travel with a staff of 10, comprising his private secretary Edward Lane Fox, his foreign adviser Sir David Manning, four press officers, two programme co-ordinators, a visit support officer and an orderly, who will travel with him aboard the Wave Knight.
Before HMY Britannia was decommissioned by the Labour government in 1997, members of the Royal family and their court would stay on board the vessel for the entirety of such tours, and would invite dignitaries on board where billions of pounds’ worth of trade deals were sealed over the years.
The austere surroundings of Wave Knight, however, make such on-board meetings impossible.
The ship, which has a crew of 72, is used for refuelling Royal Navy vessels in the area, as well as carrying out counter-narcotics patrols and disaster relief missions.
Earlier this month the ship was involved in a six-hour chase across the Caribbean which culminated in £40 million of cocaine being seized.
A Royal Marines sniper in the back of a Lynx helicopter operating from Wave Knight disabled the drug-runners’ speedboat by firing more than a dozen rounds.
The maritime drug bust was started by a patrol aircraft spotting the speedboat and directing Wave Knight to intercept.
A Kensington Palace spokesman said: “The ship will be supporting the tour while continuing with her regular operations. The ship will still respond to urgent tasks, and if needed at short notice contingency plans for Prince Harry’s travels are in place.”
Richard Johnstone-Bryden, the author of Britannia’s official history, published with the approval of the royal family in 2003, said: “Although Wave Knight will prove to be an effective mode of transport for Prince Harry’s forthcoming visit to the Caribbean it will not create any additional diplomatic or commercial benefits.”
“In contrast, if Prince Harry had been able to rely on the support of a new Royal Yacht he would have been able to host diplomatic and commercial events during the course of his programme thereby significantly enhancing the overall impact of his Royal Tour.”
“It would have also turned his ceremonial arrivals and departures into much bigger events in their own right which would have added to the overall sense of occasion and lasting impact of his visits.”
“Equally, the involvement of a Royal Yacht in this tour could have formed part of a wider programme of regional engagement on behalf of the Government and British companies.
“Having crossed the Atlantic it would have been possible for a Royal Yacht to undertake a further programme of events in either North or South America after Prince Harry’s Caribbean Tour in support of the nation’s diplomatic and commercial interests.”
Did you subscribe for our daily newsletter?
It’s Free! Click here to Subscribe!
Source: The Telegraph