The future of HMS Tyne, HMS Mersey and HMS Severn has been secured, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said.
The Royal Navy will be able to provide three times the protection to Britain’s fishing fleet post-Brexit after a decision to axe three ships was reversed, the Ministry of Defence has said.
HMS Tyne, HMS Mersey and HMS Severn, which currently support the Fishery Protection Squadron, were in the process of being decommissioned.
But, speaking during a visit to Tyneside, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said the Batch 1 Offshore Patrols Vessels (OPVs) will be retained for at least the next two years in a move the Ministry of Defence said would “bolster the UK’s ability to protect our fishing fleet as well as our shores”.
It said the Royal Navy currently provided around 200 days of fishery protection a year and the announcement meant the capacity would increase to 600 days a year if needed.
Each ship will operate from its home city – Newcastle, Liverpool and Cardiff – to boost rapid response in British waters.
The ships have also been used in anti-smuggling and counter-terrorism work, and frequently escorted foreign vessels, including those from Russia, through the English Channel.
Speaking on board HMS Tyne, Mr Williamson said: “Britain’s patrol vessels are essential to protecting our waters, our fisheries and our national security.
“Safeguarding the future of these three ships in the Royal Navy will ensure we can respond quickly to incidents at any time, further protecting our waters as we exit the EU.
“By forward-operating these ships from their affiliated locations across the country, including the Tyne, it will not only allow them to react quickly, but also strengthen the bonds between the Royal Navy and local communities.”
Last month HMS Tyne monitored a Russian frigate as it passed through the English Channel and in 2017 HMS Mersey returned from a 48,000-mile deployment which included a £12 million drugs bust off Nicaragua.
The announcement came during the Defence Secretary’s visit to Newcastle, where he also revealed the name of the fifth frigate in Britain’s Type 26 class of anti-submarine warships as HMS Newcastle.
Mr Williamson said: “I am also delighted to be able to continue to strengthen the bond to Tyneside today, by announcing one of Britain’s future world-beating Type 26 warships will be called HMS Newcastle.”
It will be built on the Clyde and will protect the UK’s nuclear deterrent and aircraft carriers.
HMS Newcastle will also be joined by her sister ship HMS Sheffield, whose name was announced by Defence Minister Stuart Andrew.
Asked if the announcement was a sign to the rest of Europe, pro-Brexit Mr Williamson said: “It’s a very clear message that Britain is an incredibly ambitious nation and our armed forces are incredibly ambitious.
“We’re going to be protecting our interests – that’s why we have the patrol vessels – but also we want to be expanding our interests and expanding our global presence.
“That’s why we’re going from three to eight.
“You couldn’t have a more clear and significant increase.”