Inside RN’s maritime control centre


Forces News has been given special access to the Royal Navy’s control centre for handling shipping emergencies. Its report follows.

UK Maritime Trade Operations Centre (UKMTO) acts as a hub to receive distress calls from ships in many parts of the world – including the Red Sea, which has seen an unprecedented 475% increase since November.

Forces News meets the dedicated UKMTO team which takes calls from ships in distress and channels the right support to them as well as warning other vessels of the dangers.


Lieutenant Commander Joanna Black, UKMTO told Forces News how “challenging” it has been for their relatively small team with the dramatic increase in issues facing vessels.

“It’s not just the number of incidents, it’s also the complexity of the incidents now,” she said.

Lt Cdr Black added: “We are dealing with multiple concurrent events, involving missiles, UAV attacks, UAV harassments, small boat harassment and also unwanted calls by entities claiming to be international authorities, telling ships to do things and threatening them with some pretty significant action if they don’t comply.

“And that’s all incredibly challenging for civilians at sea, and also for our small team to support them during some really difficult and scary situations.”

The UKMTO is globally respected by mariners and while it is a Royal Navy capability it sits independent of government and, indeed, current conflicts and struggles.

It is a worrying time for merchant shipping in the Red Sea area, but at least they know the team far away in Portsmouth is ready to help at all times.


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