For the first time since World War II, the Royal Navy will not be deploying a warship to the Caribbean. Critics argue that the abandonment of a long-standing overseas mission is a sure sign that defence cuts have gone too far. A more pragmatic view is that the RFA Wave Ruler, which is on patrol in the region, is as adept at countering drug trafficking and humanitarian relief as a more expensive warship.
The unavailability of a fighting ship and its security implications has raised concerns in Trinidad and Tobago, where one opposition MP has described the situation as political retribution for the government reneging on a deal to buy three OPVs from the UK. The island nation is in the frontline of spiralling illicit drug and money-laundering activities, which the new ships were intended to tackle.
The Atlantic Patrol Task (North) role, previously known as the West Indies Guard Ship, is traditionally carried out by a destroyer or frigate, with the main purpose of deterring any potential aggression towards the UK’s overseas territories and Commonwealth allies in the region. In recent times, the patrol’s scope has widened to combat drug trafficking and also to provide a first aid response in a region which is susceptible to natural disasters.