HNLMS Karel Doorman has left Den Helder on Monday 13 April, bound for the Caribbean. The Netherlands Ministry of Defense is deploying the ship to provide immediate support to the civil authorities in the COVID-19 pandemic if needed. The ship is initially being deployed for three months.
With the presence of this logistic support ship, the Caribbean islands will be able to rely on versatile and rapidly deployable capability in addition to that of the guard ship already present in the region, HNLMS Zeeland. HNLMS Karel Doorman can provide support in the form of transport capability in order to, for instance, guarantee food security. In addition, the RNLN ship is capable of assisting the coastguard in maritime border control, and can act as a base of operations from which to quickly provide man and materiel in support of public order on land. Lastly, the ship also houses medical resources that can support the local healthcare system by providing non-COVID-related emergency treatment.
Over the past couple of weeks, the Netherlands Ministry of Defense has received a number of requests for assistance in the fight against coronavirus from local authorities in the Dutch Caribbean. At present, Defense is already assisting with units stationed in the region, including support in maritime border control and in maintaining public order. By prepositioning HNLMS Karel Doorman in the region, Defense will ensure that additional support can be provided at very short notice whenever it is needed.
In addition to its own capabilities as a transport and supply ship, the Karel Doorman will be augmented by 2 Cougar helicopters from the Royal Netherlands Air Force for medical transport and medical evacuation, a medical team with surgical capability, a medical team for basic medical support on shore and drones from the army and navy to assist in picture compilation. Netherlands Marine Corps units will also take part in the deployment, with vehicles and landing craft for transport purposes. An additional marine unit can be flown in if necessary. The ship will also carry a hurricane disaster relief package.
France and the United Kingdom also each have a navy ship in the region, and a coordination cell has been established on Martinique with these countries to facilitate cooperation where necessary. The Karel Doorman could for example provide fuel for these ships.