During his forthcoming Caribbean tour Prince Harry will spend six nights sleeping on the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Wave Knight tanker. The vessel will be the Prince’s mode of transport between the many island nations he’s visiting and will make voyages of up to 20 hours at a time.
As a working naval vessel, the Prince will not be able to use it as a venue for any tour events as he might have were the Royal Yacht Britannia still in service. The young royal may even experience the tanker in action if it is called to resume its role in Operation Martillo, an international effort across the Caribbean to stop the drug trade. The Wave Knight has already seen success in the endeavour as it intercepted a £40 million cocaine shipment earlier in November.
A spokesperson for Kensington Palace said ‘The ship will be supporting the tour while continuing with her regular operations. The ship will still respond to urgent tasks, and if needed at short notice contingency plans for Prince Harry’s travels are in place.’
The ship has a crew of 72 and in addition to its counter-narcotics patrols it undertakes disaster relief missions and refuels Royal Navy vessels in the area.
Prince Harry’s accommodations on the tanker during the tour have brought back into question the need for a new Royal Yacht.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has resisted paying for a cost benefit analysis for a new privately funded royal yacht because of Britain’s impending exit from the European Union. This is despite calls from 100 of her own backbenchers who hope that a royal yacht could help newly independent Britain secure trade deals.
A Parliamentary campaign for a new royal yacht has been convened and is being led by MP Jake Berry He has been quoted as saying: ‘Prince Harry is doing important work in the Caribbean. The fact that the Royal Navy has had to make available a tanker which is in short supply demonstrates that a new royal yacht that is fit for purpose for promoting trade is desperately needed by this country.’
The author of Britannia’s official history has said of the need for a royal yacht: ‘Although Wave Knight will prove to be an effective mode of transport for Prince Harry’s forthcoming visit to the Caribbean it will not create any additional diplomatic or commercial benefits.
‘In contrast, if Prince Harry had been able to rely on the support of a new Royal Yacht he would have been able to host diplomatic and commercial events during the course of his programme thereby significantly enhancing the overall impact of his Royal Tour.
‘It would have also turned his ceremonial arrivals and departures into much bigger events in their own right which would have added to the overall sense of occasion and lasting impact of his visits. Equally, the involvement of a Royal Yacht in this tour could have formed part of a wider programme of regional engagement on behalf of the Government and British companies.’
Prince Harry will begin his royal tour on Sunday, 20 November, arriving initially in Antigua and then making visits to mark the independence anniversaries of Barbados, Guyana, and Antigua and Barbuda. His visit will also include events in St Vincent and the Grenadines and St Kitts and Nevis.