Sir Humphrey describes the practical challenges facing a European Navy in the disaster relief role in Asia, specifically the current situation in the Philippines. The UK’s Royal Navy happened to have a ship in the area (HMS Daring), and is sending another (Helicopter Carrier HMS Illustrious).
One difficulty facing the far flung fleet is sustainment – getting the re-supply at sea of fuel, spares, food, etc. that you need to keep doing the job, rather than having to head back to port to stock up (also known as RAS or Replenishment at Sea). The auxiliary ships that normally do this job take longer to steam around the other side of the world. And you don’t just learn RAS overnight. It requires some technique and practice, making commercial services a second-best option.
So what? So why don’t we leverage our ‘new type of alliance‘ with Japan, our Defence relations with other Asian nations (Australia, Vietnam, etc.) and organize a joint re-supply plan for such events? A re-supply ship sailing from Yokohama would be there sooner, and after all that experience in the Indian Ocean (last time Mr. Abe was in power), interoperability should be no problem. Time to use that ‘hotline‘?