Barbados Needs A New Offshore Patrol Vessel

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.


Filed under Barbados, Island Life, Politics & Corruption

12 responses to “Barbados Needs A New Offshore Patrol Vessel

  1. Anonymous

    wuhloss. so BFP admit that we need a vessel, see that china could be a source, and yet still criticizing government fa negotiating with china? bravo…! if it is so ‘necessary’ for a replacement of trident – and nobody else is offering to help – what is poor bim to do? not negotiate with china? stupse.

  2. Crusty

    Excellent description of some realities in seafaring
    and sovereignty. Yes we need a patrol boat of this
    size or larger. I’ve been in atlantic storms on
    bigger boats (100 metres) watching the swell
    crashing onto the bridge, more than 10 metres
    above the waterline. And I’ve seen the damage
    done to underwater appendages during storms.
    I learned a new understanding of the expression
    “respect for the sea”.

    China is the new manufacturing focus for the
    world. Take a look at where most hand tools,
    electrical fittings, bicycles, computers, and who
    knows what else in your home is manufactured.

    That said, China does not have a strong reputation
    for shipbuilding – Finland, Italy, Australia, maybe
    Taiwan are better known. But none of them are
    likely to offer financial incentives tied to voting
    for their position in some UN activity.

  3. RRRicky

    The Poles, Ukranians, Swedes and Germans are all pretty good shipwrights too!

    Maybe Uncle $am could spare a used Coast Guard patrol vessel? It would be a chance for them to kiss and make up with Barbados.

  4. ross

    Anonymous, is Barbados in such a desperate situation that the government cannot choose from whom it wants to get a new vessel and approach them rather than the other way around?

    This is what I mean about Barbados helping itself first. If we crawl we will get stepped on.

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  6. Green!

    200 miles out dey to de Eas’ of us
    is “we” waters – IF we can mantrol it!

    Wunnuh ever been out dey?
    Out-dey ain’t sweet!

    Fishermen have told me that Taiwanese long-liners regularly fish our waters,
    well within the 200-mile economic zone
    and there ain’t a THING we can do about it,
    other than send out The Barbados Navy and Air Force to clamp down on them and teach them a lesson!

    Here’s a lil example as to what hostile marine territory we seek to control, if able.
    A high-ranking BigUp in the RSS told me that the BDF had an British Navy career officer type come down here to B’dos. for a 2-yr. stint.
    Said Officer had been in the Queen’s Royal Navy for over 20 years,
    and had never once been sea-sick..
    – til he reach Barbados waters!!
    I reckon that says a lot for an experienced hard-stomach that’s been all over the world.

    For you need to know that the seas around our rock constitute seriously-hostile environment.
    To effectively patrol and control our vast expanses of marine economic zone,
    we need SERIOUS watercraft,
    preferably on the order of 400ft.LOA and bigger!

    We cannot afford to buy, far less maintain, vessels of this scale.

    We cannot afford the home base port for such vessels(plural!).

    So much of this is token talk
    about token seacraft,
    so dat we doan’ look too “pyow-pyow”
    as Vincie would say.

    Long Live The Barbados Navy
    and The Barbados Air Force!

  7. Wondering

    Maybe SteveHobson & HN could assist the Govt as they have in other matters.

  8. anonymous

    Good Luck ! very interesting article,however we caricom states need to re-energize the RSS (regional security Force) Jamaica & Trinidad which have a fleet of OPVs and a small but effective millitary role in the region can contribute to the entire patrol of the the region.

  9. Anonymous

    If there should ever be a Boat that Bim should definitely be from the US,Sweden or Norway.The newest generation of their patrol craft would have gone a long way in protecting their waters.The US’s LCS,Sweden’s Visby & Norway’s Skjold would more than be enough to patrol Barbados’ Littorals & territorial waters.

  10. Pingback: New Off Shore Patrol Vessel for Trinidad and Tobago | Maritime Security |

  11. akiva

    Great blog. Check out the Maritime Terrorism Research Center at

  12. ironman

    Barbados just recieved three 42m Vessels that is more than enough to patrol the EEZ