The Foreign Office has announced a series of new measures that will be taken to prepare the British Overseas Territories in the Caribbean for the imminent hurricane season.
This review follows the devastating hurricanes which hit several of the territories late last year and required a significant military response. The new plans will see a Foreign Office led joint-unit to bring together humanitarian agencies, military support and diplomatic resources.
The new measures will see a significant role continue to be played by the armed forces; with several longstanding commitments reaffirmed and expanded.
RFA Mounts Bay, the Royal Navy’s permanent presence in the Caribbean since 2017, will remain in the region throughout the hurricane season this year and into 2019. She has recently completed a maintenance period in the United States, led by British shipyard A&P Group, to keep her operationally available throughout this period.
The vessel will continue her regular sequence of visits to each of the territories to build links with local disaster management personnel. Her embarked engineering resources will also be used to conduct professional analysis of selected critical infrastructure as part of an ongoing reconnaissance program. Under funding already committed the vessel has already been loaded with new humanitarian supplies including; 1000 collapsible jerry cans, 1000 hygiene kits and up to a thousand shelter systems.
Addressing the strengthened commitment, Minister for Armed Forces, Mark Lancaster said that “our Armed Forces are committed to supporting our Overseas Territories, and we have worked alongside our colleagues across Government to ensure we are fully prepared in the event of a natural disaster or other crisis. RFA Mounts Bay, which played a vital role during the 2017 hurricane crisis, remains ready in the Caribbean and will be supported by specialist forces from the UK if required.”
His views were echoed by the Minister for Overseas Territories Lord Ahmad who stated that the British Government had “been working hard with key partners across the region to ensure an even more effective and strategic response in the event we see a repeat of last year’s hurricane season.”
Plans are now in place for a multi-national coordination cell to maximise capability, improve immediate response times and avoid unnecessary duplication of effort across the Caribbean. So far meetings have already involved the United States, Netherlands, Canada and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), all working for the common aim of improved hurricane preparedness.