Time To Start The Discussion – HMBS Trident Reaching The End
Her Majesty’s Barbadian Ship Trident – the primary offshore patrol vessel of the Barbados Coast Guard – is coming to the end of her useful life. At 27 years old, she is already well past her designed 15 year service life for patrol vessels. According to a BFP source, the engines, auxiliary equipment and most of the electronics are worn and unreliable – and more than a few times in the past year, the Trident has been unable to fulfill a tasking because of equipment deficiencies or outright failures.
The same source informed BFP that the Government of Barbados is negotiating with Communist China for a Trident replacement. (See previous BFP article Barbados Negotiating With Communist China For New Patrol Vessel.)
While have made our views known many times about dealing with China’s brutal communist dictatorship, this article is not about where or how Barbados should obtain a new offshore patrol vessel – it is about the necessity of such action.
So let’s take a look at why Barbados needs a serious offshore patrol vessel, and why a smaller vessel just won’t do the job…
Why Barbados Needs A Serious Offshore Patrol Vessel
Even a small coastal nation – and especially an island nation like Barbados – needs to venture upon it’s waters for a variety of reasons, including…
1/ Maintaining and protecting territorial sovereignty.
2/ Enforcement of laws.
3/ Safety, Rescue or Recovery Operations.
4/ Surveillance & Inspection Patrols.
Very near shore and in shallow coastal waters, all these tasks can be better performed by smaller craft. For near shore, Barbados has one 40-footer. In harbour, surf and beach areas, Barbados even uses hard-bottomed inflatables. They are safe, fast and cost-effective, but are not suitable for offshore work except as an auxiliary to a much larger vessel – and what we are talking about here is offshore work in dangerous conditions.
What are “Dangerous Conditions” & How Far Is “Offshore” ?
In a calm sea with little wind, even the smallest of our old wooden fishing boats venture far offshore, and most people would be very surprised at just how far below the horizon our fisherfolk will travel to put a long line over the stern. It is not uncommon to see small Bajan fishing vessels even seventy-five or a hundred nautical miles from home. (Doan worry old man – we won’t be ‘tell nobody exactly where your sweet spots are!)
On a calm night even a small open boat – sound, well-equipped and well-crewed – is safe enough miles offshore. But weather forecasts (and seafolk) are often a little too optimistic. Sometimes you get a fright and laugh later, but other times there is hell to pay.
The waters around Barbados are as dangerous and unforgiving as anywhere in the world. Whether along the shallow west coast, or a hundred miles into the Atlantic, the sea is totally intolerant of any carelessness, incapacity or neglect.* There is not a man or woman who works the sea from this island who has not at one time or another felt their respect for the waters instantly turn to fear.
So many ways to be injured or worse at sea: A rogue wave coming just so. An unknown coral head. Misjudging the weather. A cracked engine bearing or fouled injector on a moonless night with an offshore current. And no fire is “small” on the water.
The Coast Guard Must Go Out – No Matter What The Weather
When trouble happens and the sea is doing it’s worst, the Barbados Coast Guard must go. No choice. Duty compels our friends so out they go – no matter what. You think they are not frightened to death sometimes like the rest of us? But they must respond and they do. No matter what.
To send the men and women of the Barbados Coast Guard to sea in anything but a reliable, properly equipped vessel that is large enough and strong enough for the worst sea states – is criminal.
In The Worst Sea, Size Matters
At 123 feet, Trident is three times longer than the Coast Guard’s second largest vessel, Endeavour. And while Trident might look massive while tied up alongside and a bit of overkill for Barbados, the truth is that in the middle of an Atlantic storm, she is probably just barely large enough to be effective as an offshore rescue and patrol vessel.
Trident also lacks the abilities of newer designs that have active stabilization systems and purpose-built launching sterns for rough water rescues. Have a look at what the world’s coastal forces are using these days, and you will find that Trident’s length and displacement is by no means an “overkill” for her duties. Check out World Navies Today and you’ll see what I mean. She’s a toy compared with many – and there is often no backup capable of coming to her rescue.
Trust me on this folks – there are no aetheists on board Trident in a Force 10 or better blow!
Barbados Must Buy A New Offshore Patrol Vessel – Or Scrap Any Pretense Of Having Sovereignty Over It’s Own Waters
Any nation that cannot, or will not, mount an effective patrol of it’s own waters and coast will soon find that smugglers, thieves and plunderers of fisheries will be happy to take advantage of the situation. There are also enough failed small states to provide example of what happens when nations rely exclusively upon the good graces of their neighbours to respect their sovereignty over offshore resources.
It is all about priorities, and unfortunately, this government has shown that it prefers to spend money on short-term high-profile “show off” projects rather than the longterm maintaining of the infrastructures that are foundational to our society. Whether we are talking water, sewers, environment, health care or safety and security resources like policing or the Coast Guard – these issues are just not sexy enough to take priority over, say, cricket or a nationalized hotel scheme.**
Of course, instead of buying a new offshore vessel, there is one other option available to the Barbados Government: invite the British, Americans or our new friends, Red China, to station their vessels and aircraft on our soil to perform our patrols and rescues. In the end, there’s little real difference between that and the current practice of selling off our sovereignty and our island one piece at a time.
Cliverton & Marcus
* I stole that phrase from somewhere – an aviation poster at the old West London Aero Club, I think. (Back when they still had two Super Cubs)
** Don’t kid yourself about the new Coast Guard base. The land of the old base was worth too much for “other purposes”. Can’t wait to see which politician’s friends will end up with it.