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Aug 29, 2001

HMS Coventry anchors in Belize

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If you’ve got really good eyes, on a clear day you might have noticed a big boat on the horizon. That’s the HMS Coventry, anchored four miles outside Belize City. Ships from the Royal Navy make regular visits to Belize to liase with members of the local security forces. This afternoon, the ship let down its gangplank and News 5′s Jacqueline Woods and Brent Toombs were granted permission to board.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

The Royal HMS Coventry is expected to remain in the country for eight days. The ship is a large frigate capable of staying at sea for long periods at a time. The crew and its equipment will provide training to be used in the event of a disaster.

Jacqueline Woods

“You are the captain of HMS Coventry, this is your baby. What are her capabilities?”

Philip Jones, Captain, HMS Coventry

“I do think of her as my baby sometimes. She’s a wonderful ship, top twenty-two frigate, five thousand tons and a hundred and forty-eight metres long, which quite a long frigate. I’ve got a crew of two hundred and fifty, a mix crew, boy and girls with each of them bringing their unique capabilities to bear. We’ve got a general purpose weapon fit, principally missiles. We don’t have a medium ranged gun, but anti-air and anti-surface missiles and anti-submarine torpedoes, and a very capable helicopter. But those general purpose skills are for use in any type of naval warfare.”

During the ship’s visit to Belize, it will conduct an anti-drug operation with the Belize Defence Force. The ship, which spends five months at sea, is mostly involved in combating drug trafficking in the Caribbean.

Philip Jones

“The warships that are patrolling the Caribbean, both America, British, Dutch and French are particularly well suited to being integrated into the counter drug effort in the open ocean waters. We can stay at sea for a long period of time in rougher weather than smaller patrol boats and build a picture out over quite an extensive area. So I think we have a unique capability in counter-drug ops that we try and use. But again, we don’t’ have all the capabilities. It’s difficult for us to go into shallow seas around the islands and the coast, and that’s why we need to develop our skills and abilities to work with coast guards and defence forces like the BDF.”

The men and women on the HMS Coventry try to live a normal life as possible, but admit living with over two hundred people at sea in a confined space can be challenging at times.

Lindsey Volkaers, OM, HMS Coventry

“You are always with the same people constantly, so you don’t get to see much of the outside world. But at the end of the day, with all your friends twenty-four hours, there’s always someone to talk to and you can be on your own at the same time.”

Jacqueline Woods

“When things get stressful, what do you do to relieve that stress?”

Lindsey Volkaers

“I just go and sit outside, or most of the people on board tend to go train and do a lot of physical activity. Or they just keep it all in and as soon you get alongside, you go out and have a blast. A nice meal and a good time.”

One of the most important persons on board the ship is Paul Dutton. Dutton is responsible for preparing thousands of pounds of food for the staff and crew.

Paul Dutton, Chef

“Depending on the menu, depending on how hot it is. Today we’ve got a power cut, so we got a bit of rush later on when the power comes back on. It all varies depending on the food we’re cooking, so it’s not hard really.”

Jacqueline Woods

“Do you get complaints and how do you handle that situation being confined to a ship?”

Paul Dutton, Chef

“We never get complaints, the food is always good.”

Philip Jones says he has not had a lot of experience managing a mixed crew but so far, so good.

Philip Jones

“Well I don’t find it difficult at all. This is the second mixed ship that I’ve commanded, and I have to say I can’t remember what it was like before mixed manning. I have about thirty-five female juniors out of a total of one hundred and seventy, and about five female seniors out of a total of sixty and about five female officers. So they are an integral part of my ships’ company. They are in every department and branch and they do very job on board. Most of my bridge watch keeping officers are female and I expect and I hope that one day this job as captain will be done by a female officer too.”

Today, while most of the crew was out touring Belize, some did manage to stay onboard and relax on deck. The ship departs from Belize on September fourth. Reporting for News 5, Jacqueline Woods.

The last Royal Navy ship to visit Belize was the HMS Sheffield, which just happens to be the sister ship of the HMS Coventry.

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