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United Kingdom Deploys HMS Trent Near Guyana Amid Tensions with Venezuela.

| 2023

The British Ministry of Defence has confirmed the deployment of HMS Trent, an offshore patrol vessel, for joint exercises scheduled after Christmas. Guyana, a member of the Commonwealth and the only English-speaking country in South America is facing renewed territorial claims by Venezuela over a part of Guyanese territory rich in natural resources.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 HMS Trent sailing from Gibraltar to the Caribbean. (Picture source: Twitter account of HMS Trent)

Initially assigned to the Caribbean for anti-drug trafficking operations, the mission of HMS Trent was redirected following Venezuela's aggressive stance towards the Essequibo region in Guyana. This move by Venezuela has heightened concerns about a potential military conflict, the first in South America since the Falklands War in 1982.

The spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence stated that the visit of HMS Trent to Guyana is part of the United Kingdom's commitment to its regional allies and Commonwealth partners. The ship is equipped for various missions, including anti-piracy, counter-terrorism, humanitarian aid, and border patrols.

The HMS Trent is a River-class patrol vessel, specifically from the Batch 2 series, of the British Royal Navy. It was ordered in August 2014 and built by BAE Systems Naval Ships. The steel cutting for its construction began on October 7, 2015, and the ship was launched on March 20, 2018. It was sponsored by Mrs. Pamela Potts and christened on March 13, 2018, before being officially commissioned on August 3, 2020. HMS Trent's homeport is Portsmouth.

Regarding its general characteristics, HMS Trent has a displacement of 2,000 tonnes. It measures 90.5 meters in length, 13 meters in width, and has a draught of 3.8 meters. Its maximum speed is 25 knots (about 46 km/h), with a range of 5,500 nautical miles (about 10,200 km) and an endurance of 35 days. It can carry two rigid inflatable boats and accommodate up to 50 troops. The crew varies between 34 and 45 members.

HMS Trent has several sensor and processing systems, including a SharpEye navigation radar from Kelvin Hughes Ltd, a Terma Scanter 4100 2D radar, the BAE CMS-1 combat management system, and a Shared Infrastructure operating system. Its armament includes a 30 mm DS30B gun, four 0.5" heavy machine guns, two miniguns (retired as of 2023), and two general-purpose machine guns. The ship is also equipped with a Merlin-capable flight deck and can embark small UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles). Additionally, it has a 16-tonne crane.

With these capabilities, HMS Trent is primarily used for missions such as anti-piracy and drug trafficking, fisheries protection, counter-terrorism, humanitarian aid, and search and rescue operations, as well as for border patrols and defense diplomacy.

In related developments, the UK Foreign Secretary, Lord Cameron, and the Minister for the Americas, David Rutley, expressed strong support for Guyana's sovereignty. Rutley's recent visit to Georgetown marked the first by a G7 representative since the renewal of Venezuela's claim. He emphasized respecting sovereign borders and promised the UK's support for Guyana's territorial integrity.

In response, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Yvan Gil criticized the UK's involvement, alleging destabilization efforts in the region and historical grievances, accusing the UK of historical injustices in the region. The disputed border between Guyana and Venezuela was established under an international agreement in 1899. Guyana, formerly British Guiana, gained its independence in 1966.

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