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Strange tale of British warship continues ...
9 July 2002
Further to our message yesterday ‘Holed British destroyer ‘protecting plutonium shipment?’, overnight investigations have revealed further information about HMS Nottingham, currently safely anchored (albeit in an oil slick of its own making) at World Heritage listed Lord Howe Island.
According to the British Royal Navy, on 18 March 2002 the Nottingham was sent on operational deployment to the ‘Far East’. In early May it took part in the annual Five Power Defence Arrangement exercise ADEX with the armed forces of Singapore, Australia, Malaysia and NZ. The latter included an NZ airforce Orion, the warship Te Mana, and the fleet replenishment ship Endeavour.
Since then the Nottingham, plus Te Mana and the Endeavour, have all been taking part in what the NZ navy calls ‘defence diplomacy’ (that’s current official-speak for what was formerly more accurately described as ‘gunboat diplomacy’) in the area - with visits to the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Borneo, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The Royal Navy’s description of the Nottingham’s route ends with a visit to Australia "and Wellington on the South Island of New Zealand." [*] This is very interesting on two counts - firstly the Royal Navy’s apparent lack of geographical knowledge of the Pacific (as we locals tend to refer to this part of the world, rather than the Far East); and secondly the port visits to Wellington and Dunedin, which were due to take place later this week, would have left the warship rather handily located for the impending Tasman Sea transit of the two plutonium MOX carrying ships . . .
Yesterday British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL), no doubt anxious to distance their ‘safe and secure’ toxic plutonium shipments from the navigationally-challenged Nottingham, issued a press release denying that the destroyer was providing escort duties for the Pacific Pintail and Pacific Teal.
"A spokesman for British Nuclear Fuels said the suggestion which has emanated from the United Kingdom had absolutely no foundation in fact. The spokesman said the Nottingham's planned port visit to Wellington in New Zealand was purely coincidental." (BNFL, 8 July 2002)
Curious coincidence indeed. Although the information as to which route is to be taken by the nuclear shipments is withheld until the very last minute from the people of the countries put in peril, presumably the British government has this information well in advance, and is therefore capable of arranging such a ‘co-incidence’.
Curious too that the NZ government on the one hand condemns the British government for shipping nuclear cargoes through the Tasman, yet on the other welcomes port visits from a warship of that very same nuclear weapons state . . .
[*] Note to overseas readers - Wellington is located in the North Island.