Anyone out there looking for three brand new offshore patrol vessels? They're not yet up on eBay but BAE Systems may have to resort to that!
The Scarborough. Photo credit: Upper Clyde shipping
The government of Trinidad and Tobago (the last in the chain of Caribbean islands, they lie just off the coast of Venezuela) announced last month that it wanted to cancel the £150 million contract for the Vega-class patrollers that had been ordered in 2007 by the preceding government. The contract included maintenance of the ships for five years as well as training. Sixty-five coast guard officers have already gone through the training program in Portsmouth, southern England.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar says the government should receive a refund of €168.5 million and a further €6.8 million in damages from BAE, according to Trinidad & Tobago media. She says the delay was the main cause for termination of the contract and that given the country's economic circumstances it could no longer afford the OPVs' maintenance costs. “Do we need three OPVs? The country is not at war out in the seas. The country is at war on the ground, in our streets and in the towns...” She said the money would be better spent on health care, education and paying “more money” to the police and prisons and members of the Defense Force.
Built in Portsmouth on Britain's south coast, the first of class, Port of Spain (named for the capital of the islands' state) ended sea-trials this summer although it should have been delivered in May, while the second ship, Scarborough, built in Glasgow, Scotland is now finished and was due to be delivered this December. The third, Santa Fe, was programmed for delivery in 2011.
The preceding Trinidadian government wanted the 90.5-meter long, 2,000-tonne ships which can reach speeds of 25.8 knots to be used in the fight against drug trafficking and piracy. But Persa-Bissessar said they were slow and would be spotted and avoided by drug traffickers.
The Trinidad & Tobago Guardian writes in an editorial that “on the one hand, the Government is justified in cancelling the contract because of the acknowledged fact that the contractors were late in delivering the vessels and there had been some cost overruns... On the other hand, given that the purpose of acquiring [OPVs] was to take the country's capabilities in fighting the scourge of drug transshipment to a new level, the Government should be prepared to disclose to the population whether it is satisfied that the existing military assets would be enough to create Fortress T&T.”
The newspaper adds that the decision to cancel the OPV contract also “places in jeopardy the previous government's contract to acquire the four AgustaWestland AW139 medium twin turbine helicopters for a total contract sum of US$348 million.”
The helicopters were to operate from the island's main airport, Piarco International and from the OPVs which are fitted out for them.
The editorial gently “point[s] out to the Government that, while there may be some justification in doing so, T&T is breaching a contract with a foreign company...”
The OPVs carry a crew of 70 and can take 50 passengers. They have a 30mm gun, two 20mm guns and two 12.7mm machine-guns.
Launch of the Port of Spain. Photo credit: BAE Systems