Royal Navy patrol ship HMS Trent is setting sail to the Gulf of Guinea to undertake security patrols and a mission to support allies in West Africa. Becoming the first Royal Navy vessel to operate in the area for three years, the deployment is meant to demonstrate the UK’s commitment to being more persistently engaged in the region as international efforts are concentrating on improving security in the Gulf of Guinea after a very violent 2020, which included an increase in kidnappings from commercial vessels.
The U.K.’s patrol vessel HMS Trent is finishing preparations for her patrol to West Africa in the waters close to Gibraltar this week after a period of maintenance and a rotation of crew. Once arriving in the Gulf of Guinea, the River-class patrol ship will visit Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Gambia, and Cape Verde, and will take part in French-led multinational training exercises, known as Exercise Grand African Nemo, that will bring together international partners in the region. HMS Trent will also attend the Friends of the Gulf of Guinea (FoGG) G7++ conference in Dakar, which the UK is co-chairing with hosts Senegal.
During her deployment to the Gulf of Guinea, she will also conduct maritime security patrols as well as support partner navies by helping them to develop key maritime skills and develop plans for future operations in the region. HMS Trent carries on board 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. The team is trained in boarding operations which will help the fight against illegal activity like piracy, drugs-smuggling, and terrorism.
“This deployment demonstrates how a Britain is stepping up on the world stage to tackle shared international security challenges,” said the U.K.’s Armed Forces Minister James Heappey. “Working hand-in-hand with our allies we are utilizing our forward deployed Armed Forces to tackle threats at the source, making the world a safer place for all.”
The deployment of HMS Trent to the region comes as international attention returns to the region. In previous years, piracy has increased in the last months of the calendar year after the tropical storm season subsides. Denmark had also announced plans early in 2020 to deploy one of its vessels to the Gulf of Guinea to also assist in the efforts to increase maritime security.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) recently commended the Government of Nigeria, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), and the Nigerian Navy for their efforts to improve maritime security in the region. The Nigerian representative to the meeting highlighted his country’s efforts, the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, known as the Deep Blue Project, which was launched at mid-year focusing on crimes at sea as well as the onshore activities of the pirates.
The Nigerian representatives highlighted the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) report for the first six months of 2021, which showed that there has been an overall decline in reported incidents in the Gulf of Guinea. The country said it looks forward to working with international partners to continue to improve security across the Gulf of Guinea.