Ships Taken Up From Trade (STUFT): Requisitioning yachts as warships

Peaceful times in the Riviera ports, except for occasional violent weather that has, over the centuries, sunk many ships and craft on our Coasts; yet not far away, conflict rages in Syria, Libya and Iraq.

One day, Britain will be caught up in some unpredicted war and, as usual, we shall be unprepared. Notably, we are critically short of warships; the British Merchant Navy continues to shrink. On the other hand, the megayachts, which we see here, are multiplying in numbers and size like rabbits. Admiralty planners in the Ministry of Defence are certainly keeping an eye on them although they rarely visit UK waters. The Admiralty Requisitioning Officer Monte-Carlo (self-appointed) was busy in 1982 seeking British-registered yachts suitable to help the Royal Navy in the short war (Operation Corporate) to regain the Falkland Islands invaded by Argentine forces. It was feared at the time that Spain and Italy would support their kinsmen in Argentina, which would have been uncomfortable for us living between them.

In the event, Britain won without needing to employ any large yachts; but the fleet used no less than 52 Ships Taken Up From Trade (STUFT), including the cruise liners QE2 and Canberra for troop carrying. In the Gulf Wars of the 90s, Britain had to charter 105 foreign ships to transport British forces and their material.

Eclipse Yacht“Eclipse” (Bermuda flag), owned by Roman Abramovich.
Photo: Keld Gydum

Since 1982, the fleet of Red Ensign yachts (including Cayman Islands, BVI, Bermuda, etc) has quadrupled, and their capabilities are now amazing: speed, range, endurance (fuel tankage, water-makers and freezers), accommodation, boat capacity, helicopter facilities, communications, catering and crew – often British or ex-Dominions. These ships, up to 557 feet long, could be hugely useful in future conflicts, as they have in the past; governments since King Alfred (849-899) have always requisitioned private vessels for military purposes when needed, as in the Crimean War and both World Wars, and will continue to do so. Guns, minesweeping gear and military electronics are easily added. Members of the Royal Yacht Squadron are expected to offer their yachts for government service if a state of emergency is declared, and the four White Ensign megayachts usually on our coasts would certainly comply. For less privileged yachts, the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act would be re-enacted to allow requisition of assets both ashore and afloat.

Is your big yacht ready and willing? If not, better re-flag to Belize, Vanuatu, the Marshall Islands or Malta. Owners tend to consider just the fiscal advantages of possible registries (no annual tax for yachts registered in UK). But defending the peace is more important than avoiding taxes.