In an unusual move, the 37,000-tonne UK Royal Fleet Auxiliary replenishment tanker Tideforce, with an embarked Wildcat naval helicopter fitted with advanced radar and electro-optical systems, has been deployed to the small British Caribbean territory of the Turks and Caicos Islands on an anti-crime mission.
Law and order has broken down in the territory. There have been 15 murders in recent weeks, and all are thought to be connected with the rampant smuggling of cocaine and marijuana, mainly to the US, by internationally-linked organised crime gangs.
A US Navy maritime patrol plane is also reportedly being deployed while London is arranging for the supply of a surveillance aircraft to the local security forces.
Tideforce will carry out maritime and aerial surveillance and signal intelligence operations in support of the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police as well as provide a platform for offshore interception craft.
There are currently no plans to deploy British Army soldiers or Royal Marines to the territory.
Trevor Hollingsbee was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy and Senior Superintendent with the Hong Kong Marine Police. He is Baird Maritime's resident maritime security expert and columnist.