Britain's Royal Navy fishery patrol ships received a new lease on life when the Ministry of Defence settled a GBP 52 million (USD 101 million) deal with Portsmouth shipbuilders. The new contract with VT Group effectively guarantees that the HMS Tyne, HMS Severn and HMS Mersey will remain at sea until the end of 2013.
The ships safeguard fishery resources found in English, Welsh and Northern Irish waters by apprehending sea poachers. The new five-year lease agreement with VT will not only strengthen the anti-poaching force but save taxpayers GBP 8 million (USD 15.5 million), Portsmouth Onlinereports. The original GBP 60 million (USD 116.6 million) agreement hands the ships over to the navy for five years, after which the government could buy them outright, extend the lease or return them to VT. With the lease on the first ship, Tyne, due to expire in 2008, the company offered MoD officials a 20 per cent discount if they renewed a year early. Armed forces minister Adam Ingram said: "The work carried out by Tyne, Severn and Merseyin their dual role of fishery protection and maritime defence is vital. Securing their services for a further five years, while delivering notable savings to the taxpayer, is an effective way of doing business." The ships originally entered the service in 2003 and 2004. They became the first British warships to be leased from a private firm. John Davies, the managing director of VT Support Service, said the new contract fortified the company's position as a market leader. (FIS)