The Royal Navy is in the process of transferring the ownership of two Sandown-class minehunters, HMS Grimsby and HMS Shoreham, to the control of the Ukrainian navy.
Decision to Sell
The UK Defence Minister, Grant Shapps, is responsible for this decision. Shapps has expressed his belief that these ships will be instrumental in saving lives at sea and securing key maritime routes for Ukrainian grain exports via the Black Sea.
HMS Blyth and HMS Pembroke, two other Sandown-class minehunters, have previously been transferred to the Romanian navy. Before they were put back into service, these ships were modernised, with upgrades including the addition of a new sonar system.
There are several logistical issues that arise when it comes to delivering the ships to Ukraine. Current restrictions have led to the closure of military access to the straits that link the Mediterranean to the Black Sea by Turkey. One potential alternative could be to take a route via the Rhine-Main-Danube canal. Further concerns have been raised about the ships' susceptibility to the Russian navy due to the light armament they carry.
A New Maritime Coalition
In conjunction with the transferral of these two minehunters, Shapps and his Norwegian counterpart, Bjørn Arild Gram, have announced the establishment of a “coalition for Ukraine's maritime capabilities”. This initiative, led by the UK, Norway, and their allies, aims to augment Ukraine's long-term maritime capacities. The coalition's goals include empowering the Ukrainian navy to defend its territorial waters and enhancing security in the Black Sea.
The British defense ministry has put an emphasis on the swift development of a maritime force in the Black Sea, bolstering the Ukrainian marine infantry, and river patrol boats to “defend the coasts and inland waterways”. These are seen as the coalition's key priorities.