As part of the arrival in Senegal of the British warship HMS Trent, the British Minister of the Armed Forces, James Heappey, gave an interview to Seneweb on board the said ship, to talk about the bilateral cooperation between the United Kingdom and Senegal. He spoke about the reasons for the deployment of this ship in the Gulf of Guinea for a few weeks. James Heappey has, in this interview, reiterated the availability of the United Kingdom to accompany Senegal in the framework of maritime security, the fight against Covid-19 but also in the exploitation of its gas and oil resources.
Tell us about the purpose of your visit to Senegal
Senegal is an important partner for the UK in West Africa. HMS Trent which is the warship of the British Royal Navy has been in Senegal for a few days. The reason for the presence of this ship is to take advantage of the opportunity that it presents to meet, to exchange with the Senegalese national navy which is a friendly navy, and to see together, to discuss, to evaluate the opportunities to work together, to identify the subjects around which they can collaborate in the future. The warship is based in Gibraltar but in the future it will make frequent visits to Senegal.
There are many opportunities, the UK and Senegal will have to work together to exploit these opportunities to defend their common interests. First, the fact that the UK is investing heavily in the oil and gas sectors in Senegal, the two countries share common interests such as the protection of trade routes and the fact of having peace at sea and other opportunities that go beyond trade issues, security issues including disruptions in ports, the stirrings of extremist groups in Mali; these are opportunities that present the need for collaboration in order to ensure security in these areas.
Motivations for the arrival of the HMS in Senegalese waters
This is the first deployment of this warship of the Royal Navy in the Gulf of Guinea in general and in Senegal in particular, after Nigeria and Ghana. It is going to Cape Verde and the Gambia; it is about getting in touch with partners and demonstrating the ship’s capabilities, seeing with local partners how to work together on common challenges. The UK refrains from being a lecturer, it cannot come to the continent, to the Gulf of Guinea and tell its partners how to deal with the maritime security issues they have faced since… It is about coming to listen, discuss, exchange, try to have an understanding of the local problems, and how to work with partners to solve these issues.
Is there any other reason for the ship’s presence in Senegal?
There is no secret agenda, HMS is there specifically to work with partners to strengthen local maritime security; there are many other ships of this type in the same Royal Navy company that are being deployed around the world to do the same work with international partners. HMS Trent is an important, versatile warship with extraordinary capabilities that can naturally serve as a model and inspiration for partners. The United Kingdom and Senegal have many avenues of collaboration around which they can engage in the future. After Cape Verde and Guinea, the ship will return to Gibraltar in December. Everywhere we went, they appreciated the deployment of the ship, in Nigeria, in Ghana, and the Senegalese hospitality in particular is to be commended.
The contribution of British companies to the exploitation of Senegalese oil and gas
British companies have ongoing contracts with Senegal for the exploitation of gas and its natural resources. This should not be seen as a contradiction with the decision of the world’s governments, especially the United Kingdom in Glasgow (Cop 26), so we must move towards a transition to renewable energy, they know that we must stop using gas and oil in the future, but that it is important in the short term, to have access to gas and oil reserves because it is an important issue. We must be pleased that the United Kingdom is in this sector, the important thing is to see together how to work with Senegal not only to exploit in the best conditions these resources but also to protect them.
Covid-19 in the UK and the UK’s contribution to Senegal in the fight against the pandemic
The United Kingdom is recovering from the pandemic in a decent way, the British are taking their 3rd dose of vaccine, in hundreds of thousands, so this is good news in the sense that it will reopen the British economy. The UK has created a world-class program and vaccine, and we need to contribute more to organizations like Covax to ensure that the vaccine is available to our friends and partners around the world. And that’s what we’re working on now. All of the UK’s vaccine support to Senegal is done through Covax.