UK to Procure Seabed Surveillance Vessels for Infrastructure Safety

The UK will procure two seabed surveillance ships to protect underwater infrastructure from sabotage, Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace said Sunday.

The first Multi-Role Ocean Surveillance Ship will be bought this year and operationalized next, while the second vessel will be built in the country, Navy Lookout quoted the minister as saying at a party conference in Birmingham.

Equipped With UUVs

The first ship will be bought from a private vendor for conversion while the second one will be “purpose-built” to host unmanned underwater systems (UUV), patrolling “up and down sections of pipelines and cables,” the outlet added.

The vessel will have a UUV “hangar” and workshop, a command and control facility, and a communications suite. 

Nord Stream Pipelines Damage

The Conservative Party minister made the announcement days after leaks were reported in two Nord Stream gas pipelines that transport gas from Russia to Europe via the Baltic sea.

European countries have attributed the damage to “sabotage,” without naming the perpetrators.

Ukraine and Poland, meanwhile, have blamed Russia for the act off the coasts of Denmark and Sweden. Russia, in turn, has implicated the US-led Western block for the damages in the pipelines.

Gas emanating from the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea. Image: Swedish Coast Guard/AFP via Getty Images

Russia, Long-Term Threat: Minister

Speaking on the topic, Wallace declined to name a potential saboteur, nevertheless singling out Russia as a long-term threat to British infrastructure.

“It should remind us all how fragile our economy and infrastructure is to such hybrid attacks … Our internet and our energy are highly reliant on pipelines and cables. Russia makes no secret of its ability to target such infrastructure,” Reuters quoted the minister as saying.

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“So for that reason, I can announce we have recently committed to two specialist ships with the capability to keep our cables and pipelines safe.”