Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 March 2016, 13:15 by Denis Chabrol
A United Kingdom Navy vessel, which engages in the fight against narco-trafficking, has arrived in Guyana where its engineers will help train local Coast Guardsmen and revive the country’s coast guard flagship, GDFS Essequibo.
“I would also be sending across some engineers to your Coast Guard vessel to assist in some engineering training and, if possible, see if we get your Coast Guard vessel running and working to exercise with us on Friday, “ said HMS Mersey’s Commanding Officer, Lt. Commander Richard Hewitt.
The GDFS Essequibo, formerly a British minesweeper HMS Orwell, was purchased in 2001.
On leaving Guyana on Friday (April 1, 2016) at the end of a four-day visit, Hewitt said the HMS Mersey would engage in a coastal patrol exercise with the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Coast Guard to exchange information and ideas.
“…hopefully two vessels maneuvering in close proximity to see how you operate and how we operate,” he said. Against the background of Guyana’s plan to buy additional Coast Guard vessels to operate out at 12 nautical miles, Hewitt said his team could share its experiences with local counterparts. “We can show you how we do that in the Royal Navy,” he said.
Lt. Commander Hewitt said before arriving in Guyana, the vessel has been working with partners in the Caribbean in conducting counter-narcotics patrols and would continue to do so on leaving Guyana for several United Kingdom Overseas Territories ahead of the 2016 Hurricane Season. The official hurricane period lasts from June to November each year.
“We have had some successes with regards to some vessels we have seen. We have assisted our partner nations in those successes- and more of that to follow. BY HMS Mersey being in the area itself, it also acts as deterrent and in the three months we have been in the Caribbean we have stopped further flows by just being in the area itself,” he said when asked by Demerara Waves Online News whether the UK vessel has been able to intercept drugs.
The HMS Mersey’s Commander said Guyana is part of a wide area that remains vulnerable to drug trafficking and so the focus is on using vital information to stem the flow of narcotics. “We take our time, we feed off intelligence and, where we can, work with our partner nations to assist and if they ask for assistance we offer where we can,” he said.
Guyana, with its largely un-policed borders, is regarded as a major transshipment point for South American cocaine to the Caribbean, North America, Europe and more recently parts of Africa.