French company to supply GDF with offshore patrol vessel; Venezuela condemns deal as “threat” to regional peace

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 April 2024, 17:46 by Writer

Captain (Coast Guard) Vernon Burnett,and Director of the Americas for OCEA S.A., Mr. Yorgo Hernandez signed the Letter of Intent for the acquisition of the Offshore Patrol Vessel.

A French company has sealed a deal with the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) to build a US$42-million military offshore patrol vessel (OPV), a move that has triggered a sharp rebuke by Venezuela.

“The price of the vessel includes the cost of the vessel and its equipment and the integrated logistics support services inclusive of training for a five-year period,” the finance ministry said.

Research shows that the OPV-190 can carry 30 crew members and can take 24 passengers on board. It can travel over 4,000 to 5,000 kilometres at 12 knots and its maximum speed, which depends on the load, can reach 30 knots. The manufacturer, OCEA S.A. said the vessel has an endurance of about 21 days.

Chief of Defence Staff of the GDF, Brigadier Omar Khan said the acquisition of the vessel is part of an ongoing plan to increase the GDF’s capabilities. “It is pertinent, and it is necessary, and it is in our best interest as a sovereign nation to do so. While our collective actions during this journey have converged in this ceremony today, I single out and recognize the commitment of the Government of Guyana and the vision of our Commander-in-Chief to ensure that the GDF is equipped with the relevant assets for air, land and sea to protect our territory, and to also create an environment conducive to national development,” Brigadier Khan added.

Director of the Americas for OCEA S.A. Jorgo Hernandez said the vessel will assist in combatting illegal fishing and trafficking activities and in protecting Guyana’s sovereignty. He said OCEA S.A. could assist Guyana with establishing a maintenance shipyard that would benefit this country and the region. “Such an investment would not only benefit your nation but also contribute to regional maritime development,” he said.

France’s Foreign Minister, Stéphane Séjourné, in a meeting with President Irfaan Ali, on March 25, 2024 in Guyana had disclosed his country’s willingness to supply vessels to the GDF.

The signing of the Letter of Intent between the GDF and OCEA S.A. has drawn a sharp reaction from the Venezuelan government, saying it was part of a wider plot by Guyana and Western Nations to foment instability in Latin America and the Caribbean. “The false victim Guyana buys an ocean patrol vessel from a French company. Guyana, together with the United States, its Western partners and its former colonial master, constitute a threat to the peace of our region. Venezuela will continue to monitor these actions by Guyana and will persist on the path of international legality,” Venezuela’s Vice President, Delcy Rodriguez said.

Ms Rodriguez’s persistence with that line came one day after the 15-member United Nations Security Council (UNSC) virtually isolated Venezuela by stressing the need to respect international law and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other states.

President Irfaan Ali requested the UNSC meeting after the Nicolás Maduro administration earlier this month adopted a law, following last December’s controversial referendum, that creates the groundwork for Venezuela’s annexation of Guyana’s 160,000 square kilometre Essequibo Region.

Guyana maintains that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the only mechanism to settle the dispute over the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award that settled the land boundary with Venezuela.

Despite its persistent objections to the ICJ process and insistence on a bilateral solution, Venezuela this week submitted its substantive legal arguments to that judicial body.