The French Patrol Vessel Arago had completed a two day visit to Pitcairn Island, Britain’s most remote overseas territory in the Pacific Ocean.
The two-day visit occurred from 17th to 18th of February and involved several community functions including an evening barbecue co-hosted by the French Captain. Speaking to the local media, the Pitcairn Miscellany, Captain Benoît Renié saids “Visits are a way to strengthen the relationship between France and the United Kingdom”.
The island’s administrator Nicola Hebb agreed, saying that all Pitcairn islanders value “our important historic and current links with French Polynesia and between the UK and France, which are embodied in the friendship so clearly demonstrated during the visits of the Arago.”
She highlighted the potential support capabilities offered by the French Navy should an emergency situation rise.
In the absence of a British military presence in the vicinity the Pitcairn Island relies on visits and patrols by vessels from the French and Royal New Zealand Navies to support the local community and work to resolve local emergencies such as damage caused by severe weather events and medical evacuations.
The last major British military visit to the islands occurred in 2001 when HMS Sutherland and RFA Bayleaf brought the island’s Governor Martin Williams to the territory to undertake official functions. The Governor is not routinely based on the island and instead resides in Wellington, also serving as the British High Commissioner to New Zealand.
The FS Arago is a former hydrographic survey vessel that is now used as a patrol vessel based out of Papeete in French Polynesia. It is assisted in the eastern Pacific by the Floreal class surveillance frigate FS Prairial which has also visited Pitcairn.