BRITAIN has deployed a naval patrol ship identified as HMS Trent to Nigeria to assist the country in its efforts to tackle maritime and other security challenges it is facing as piracy rages out of control in the Gulf of Guinea.
In response to the growing spate of bunkering and piracy off the coast of West Africa, European maritime interests are being threatened. Determined to checkmate the spate of criminality in Nigeria and the West African sub-region, the British government deployed HMS Trent, which began its sail to the waters of the Gulf of Guinea as she headed for security patrols and a mission to support allies in West Africa.
Ndidiamaka Eze, a spokesman for the British High Commission in Abuja, said that the river-class patrol ship would visit Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Gambia and Cape Verde. It will take part in French-led multinational training exercises that will bring together international partners in the region, known as Exercise Grand African Nemo.
HMS Trent, which is the first Royal Navy vessel to operate in the region for three years, will conduct maritime security patrols as well as support partner navies by helping them to develop key maritime skills and plans for future operations. Its deployment is a clear signal of the UK’s commitment to being more persistently engaged in the West African region, through which more than £6bn of UK trade passes every year.
James Heappey, the UK armed forces minister, said: “This deployment shows the integrated review in action. It demonstrates how a truly global Britain is stepping up on the world stage to tackle shared international security challenges. Working hand-in-hand with our allies we are utilising our forward-deployed armed forces to tackle threats at the source, making the world a safer place for all.”
HMS Trent carries onboard a contingent of Royal Marines from 42 Commando, which will train partner forces across the region in skills like boarding and searching of suspicious vessels, as well as evidence handling and medical skills. As well as delivering training to partner nations, 42 Commando are experts in boarding operations helping fight against illegal activity like piracy, drugs-smuggling and terrorism.
Commander Thomas Knott, HMS Trent’s commanding officer, said: “Continuing a year of forward-deployed operations in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, this deployment marks an important return to the region for the Royal Navy, demonstrating our commitment to improving maritime security in the area. We are extremely proud and excited to commence this deployment to what is an exciting new region for HMS Trent.
“We are looking forward to working with regional partners and also engaging with local communities in an effort to strengthen security.”
Ben Llewellyn-Jones, the UK’s acting high commissioner to Nigeria, added: “Nigeria is an important and valued defence partner for the UK in West Africa. Our two countries face many shared threats and we are keen to work with Nigeria to defeat these and to help improve maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, including in areas such as counter-piracy.”
Apparently, the deployment of the patrol ship is part of the Royal Navy’s Forward Presence programme that seeks to put patrol ships in positions around the globe ready to respond to global events. HMS Trent finished preparations for her patrol to West Africa this week in the waters close to Gibraltar, refreshing skills following a period of maintenance and a rotation of crew.