New patrol vessel Lilibet has carried out its first patrols after being handed over to the Falkland Islands government at the end of last month. It replaces former fishing vessel Protegat, which has been in this role for the last fifteen years.
Lilibet is designed by Damen specifically for this role, and was built in Vietnam for maritime security company Seagull Security, and is operated by its Falklands incorporated subsidiary Larus Dominicanus Ltd.
The new patrol vessel steamed almost 11,000 nautical miles home to the Falklands from Vietnam, with calls in Singapore, Mauritius and Cape Town along the way. This included being brought in to search for a yacht in distress during the Golden Globe Race, a delay due to dirty fuel and hitting hurricane-force winds off South Georgia during the long delivery trip.
Lilibet was christened on its arrival in the Falklands by the Falkland Islands government’s portfolio holder for Natural Resources, MLA Teslyn Barkman – joined by local schoolgirl Aimee Walker, who had proposed the Lilibet name in honour of the late Queen Elizabeth II.
Provided on a 15-year contract with Seagull Maritime, Lilibet arrived in the Islands on 15th April, then undergoing, inspection, bunkering and provisioning, and partaking in a two-week programme of training with Fisheries and other departments before heading out on its first patrols.
Lilibet’s role is to act as a deterrent to illegal fishing activity. In a competitive environment with foreign flag and coastal state interests being inextricably linked to maritime trade, ocean governance and natural resource protection, unlawful activities in Falkland Islands waters must be policed, with consequences for those who choose to break the law, or their licence conditions.
This comes as part of the Falkland Islands Government’s strategy to develop its monitoring, interdiction, boarding and ocean governance role, the introduction of new capabilities and onboard technologies raises the stakes for all vessels conducting improper or illegal operations in the coastal state’s waters.
The vessel has a secondary role as a search and rescue vessel and is fitted with a 2t/minute fire monitor, rescue nets, stretchers, a helicopter winching deck and ten additional overspill bunks, as well as the capability to fast-dash anywhere inside the Falkland’s EEZ. Additionally, Lilibet has a heavy-duty MST 750SR stern ramp RIB, capable of a maximum speed of 38 knots and able carry up to ten persons.
During sea trials Lilibet achieved a top speed of 28 knots and has a required endurance of 30 days. Sixty days’ provisions can be carried and patrolling at 10 knots could be undertaken for 42 days with a maximum range of 10,000 nautical miles.
The vessel has high bandwidth communications infrastructure, providing fisheries officers at sea have full access to the necessary facilities used in operations controlled from Stanley. It is fitted for 0.5-inch heavy machine gun mounts port and starboard and can embark Falkland Islands Defence Force (FIDF) troops with a heavy machine gun, though routinely Lilibet patrols unarmed.
Lilibet will also patrol up to the Blue Hole, a high seas area well to the north of the Falklands EEZ, where an international fleet of some 500-600 vessel jigs for squid seasonally. While she has no jurisdiction (other than over Falklands-flagged vessels), she will gather intelligence and report to the competent authorities.
‘Lilibet coped well and the axe-bow hull, specifically designed to cut through waves and reduce slamming was incredibly effective in the extreme conditions. She has proven herself,’ said Colonel Mark Gray, managing director of Larus dominicanus Ltd.
‘The class of ship is an excellent, capable, value-for-money type of vessel that can operate in all seas and at speed. She is ideal for island nations for patrolling large EEZs and especially marine protected areas.’