Kaieteur News – Guyana has reportedly purchased a “next generation” 115 Defiant Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) for US$11.5M so that the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) can among other things better protect ExxonMobil’s operations.
The Government has been paying for the boat since 2021 by setting aside funds from its yearly budgets that are heavily supported by oil revenues from the Stabroek Oil Block offshore Guyana. On Monday October 30, Metal Shark Boats, the American company that Guyana paid to build the vessel said that the boat is completed and has departed its Louisiana production facility in the United States of the American (USA) for its Bayou La Batre, Alabama shipyard.
“From there, the vessel will continue its journey to Guyana, where it will join eight other Metal Shark patrol boats currently in service with the GDF”, Metal Shark Boats stated. The company added: “the new vessel will help to protect Guyana’s burgeoning oil and gas industry and the far-reaching interests supporting its development, many of them right here at home (in the USA)”.
Guyana’s oil and gas industry is being propelled by production from the Stabroek Block, -a lucrative oil block with a lopsided contract that favours its operator, the American oil giant ExxonMobil.
The Stabroek-oil-block is located in Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) but has been at the center of Guyana’s ongoing border controversy with Venezuela over the country’s (Guyana) Essequibo Territory, a case that is currently before the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Guyana’s agent on the Border case before the ICJ, Carl Greenidge, was in 2019 quoted in a news article by another section of the media saying that Venezuela’s claim to the territory splits the Stabroek Block in its “Entirety”.
Venezuela has heightened its claims on the territory since Guyana discovered oil in 2015.
In recent years, however, the neighbouring country has become more aggressive in its border patrols-including offshore- and it is one of the main reasons why the current government in May 2021 dipped its hands into the country’s Contingency Fund (Emergency money) to make a down-payment on the 115 Defiant vessel (Offshore Patrol Vessels).
A month after making the down-payment, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Gail Teixeira explained to the National Assembly that the purchase was urgent to protect Guyana from Venezuelan Incursions. “Mr. Speaker the decision to move to acquire an offshore patrol vessel, a new one, was thought to be an urgent matter, because of some (Venezuelan) incursions that have taken place in our waters,” Minister Teixeira said.
The minister said too then that Guyana currently has one old vessel, the GDFS Essequibo, which she said, “has not been doing well.” She said that in order to better protect Guyana’s territory, acquiring the new vessel is necessary. She had said too that the Vessel will be custom built to suit Guyana’s needs. Guyana had only finished paying off for the 115 Defiant this year, and the vessel has been named GDFS Berbice.