Falklands oil rig protection – a few practical problems…

Protecting Falklands oil


The report from Edison Investment Research predicting almost £112bn worth of oil in Falklands territorial waters provides a few figures to add to the current debate over the sovereignty of the Islands.

But Ian McLelland, co-author of the report, warns that instability in the South Atlantic caused by Argentine belligerence, will prevent the required investment by oil companies. The sensible approach would be for the Falklands, Argentina and UK to join forces to jointly own the oil extraction operation.

Of course Argentina is unlikely to agree to this. After all, it’s their oil  – along with the Islands and their inhabitants.

The British garrison currently costs some £77m annually – although I can’t say if that’s just the cost of their being in the South Atlantic and not in UK, or the  overall cost of the units and their deployment – a much larger figure if  depreciation costs were included.

The Falklanders wish to pay for their defence once they have enough money, which one assumes will include protection of the oil rigs – for which there will have to be additional Royal Marine units with helicopters  and dedicated shipping. But with oil revenues  likely to be some £1.2bn a year once production gets going, there’s plenty to spare .

The oil will not be pumped ashore, but directly into tankers for processing elsewhere. The idea is for the Islands to be as little affected by the industrial infrastructure  that accompanies oil.

If Argentina continues to play dog-in-the-manger, the tankers will have to come from South Africa or Europe, which as far as I can see, isn’t any sort of problem – at least for the UK or the Falkland Islands.

It’s hard to see how the Argentines can do much more than make noises.  The Falklands naval war showed very clearly how by remaining far enough north and  east of the Islands, British warships could avoid Argentine air attack.  Using submarines and oil rig protection vessels, harassment of the rigs can be prevented.

If the tankers come from the north-east and leave by the same direction, their harassment by Argentine air and naval forces can also be prevented.  These are the High Seas, and Britain is perfectly entitled to deploy whatever naval forces it wishes, and keep them there ad infinitum.

Of course somebody in Whitehall is going to have to wake up to the reality that this operation will require at least three helicopter carriers plus supporting warships and logistic vessels, to rotate in and out of the often brutally rough South Atlantic.

It also begs the absence of an aircraft carrier – well at least two to ensure coverage…..

So why on earth was the Royal Navy  mugged at such an inopportune moment in British history?  Especially, why were the Harriers scrapped?  As a deterrent, they were proven, tried and tested.  No wonder Mrs Kirchner feels free to be so ludicrously bombastic.  The Black Widow and I  have something in common at last, in that it makes me wax the same.

The enforced extinction of the Harrier was ornithologically stupid.  Bird-brainedly ridiculous – because whereas Falklands oil would have paid for Harrier carriers to continue for a while, the new carriers will not be with us (if at all) for another (sticks finger in air) say… ten years – or do I mean twenty…?

Maybe for the interim (using Falklands oil money) we could buy a second-hand carrier from India  in exchange for some Eurofighters? Oh, hang on, INS Viraat  is actually HMS Hermes – flying Harriers…?  Wasn’t that one of the UK’s Falkland War carriers?  So that’s not on, and I can’t see the Americans selling us anything for this purpose.

Or maybe the Falkland Islanders will buy one of  their own.  There are plenty of Naval officers ready, willing and able to  don flight deck helmets and flying suits in a good cause that gets them back to doing what they’re so good at.   But leave it another five years or so, and even that idea will be impossible.

As I’ve always advised the Argentines; keep quiet and be nice, and the Falklands will be yours in time.  When we were sent down there in 1982, there were only some 1200 Islanders. Had they not invaded, this figure would have dwindled away to the point where new blood would have been welcomed.  Thanks to the war, a road system, low fuel taxes and fishery license money, now there are over 3,000 Islanders.  I’m guessing that when the oil revenue starts flowing, this figure will increase even more –  a reverse diaspora.

It’s all about numbers. I’d certainly advise the Islanders to play their part and procreate as quickly as they feel able. The more people there are to insist on their right to be British, the greater the moral compulsion for them to be supported.  The arithmetic of freedom…

But in the end, it all ends up with Tommy Atkins – with or without the right gear to do the job… and he’s a declining species as well.   But  history never repeats itself..  does it?

2 thoughts on “Falklands oil rig protection – a few practical problems…”

  1. Hi Hugh,

    Enjoyed your article, particularly the bit about the Harriers. I’m the copywriter for the Military and Aviation Book Club (part of Book Club Associates) and we’re running your Forgotten Voices of the Falklands in our April magazine – so in looking for something newsworthy yet upbeat for our news shorts feature (on authors featured in the magazine) I was hoping to use a quote from your blog. Would this be acceptable? Below is exactly how it would appear.

    Thanks, Mark

    Hugh McManners’ said in a recent blog post that the scrapping of the Harrier fighter was ‘ornithologically stupid … bird-brainedly ridiculous.’

  2. I wonder perhaps if Mr Cameron’s loyalties really lay with the Falklands ?
    To denude the nation of its aircraft carriers and its carrier borne aircraft in a single action have put the Falklands at risk and Mr Cameron would know this, so we can turn that over and conclude that Mr Cameron wants this ! ?

    We have seen this appeasement streak in Cameron before when he was forced by hs own back bench and the media to reject the EU fiscal union. but simultaneously refused the British people a referendum.

    I fear for the Falklands under Cameron

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