Navy

Could Royal Navy minehunters be used to clear sea channel for Ukrainian grain exports?

Russia and Ukraine recently signed a deal to reopen Black Sea ports to resume vital exports to ease a food crisis.

Russia and Ukraine signed a deal to reopen Black Sea ports to resume vital grain exports, in which minehunters could be required to create a safe corridor.

The deal has been seen as a diplomatic breakthrough aimed at easing a global food crisis initiated by the war.

Although the Royal Navy has two "first-rate" minehunter vessels, a retired Commander says it's unlikely they'd be sent.

Former Navy Commander Tom Sharpe has told Forces News there are numerous challenges faced when trying to open a safe corridor in the Black Sea.

"There are a couple of things to note when it comes to opening transit corridors that are safe from mines," he said.

"The first is that it takes a very long time. The second is that almost nothing to do with mine countermeasures is a precise science.

"So, telling you how long it will take and how safe it would be are both very difficult. It will always take a long time and there will always be room for error at the end of it."

When asked how long it would take for the shipping to move through ports such as Odessa safely, Mr Sharpe explained that "you have to take into consideration a few things". 

He said: "One is how long is the corridor you want to demine. The second is how wide. And then the third point is to what percentage probability of clearance do you want to take it to. That will never be 100%.

"It's very hard to say how long this would take. It would be weeks, if not months, to make it safe."

The defence commentator said that there is a "huge amount of risk" in an accidental trigger, an unidentified mine hitting a warship, and it getting attributed to something else.

"The risk of miscalculation in these relatively confined areas – very highly guarded, very highly contested – the risk of miscalculation goes up." 

Mr Sharpe added: "That's why I think the UK and Royal Navy will be hesitant to send forces into that area if they are even allowed to in the first place.

"Getting them into the Black Sea, getting them protected and getting them properly supported that is of course where the challenge lies and I suspect actually maybe one step beyond what the Royal Navy and UK is prepared to do."

Watch: Ukrainian Navy personnel receive training on Royal Navy minehunter.

Sailors of the Ukrainian Navy have been training with their Royal Navy counterparts in Scotland.

The Ukrainians have been learning how to operate Sandown-class minehunters as they prepare to receive two of such vessels as part of a deal struck with the UK last year

The Government is aiming to train up to 10,000 Ukrainian troops every 120 days, as part of an ongoing commitment to support Ukraine following Russia's invasion in February.