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Coast guard fleet boosted

Thursday, October 05, 2017

KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — The Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Coast Guard's operational capability has been strengthened with the acquisition of four boats and supporting maintenance equipment from the United States Government, valued at more than $500 million.

Two 38-foot SAFE boats and two 37-foot Boston Whaler vessels have been donated under the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) and will significantly enhance the Coast Guard's maritime interdiction efforts and facilitate greater coordination with their US counterparts in curtailing transnational crimes, such as illicit drug, gun and human trafficking.

With these additions Jamaica now has the largest maritime presence in the Caribbean.

The vessels and equipment were formally presented to National Security State Minister, Pearnel Charles Jr, by Chargé d'Affaires at the US Embassy in Jamaica, Eric Khant, during a handover ceremony at the JDF Coast Guard headquarters in Port Royal yesterday.

Charles said the provisions were welcome in light of the onset of “dynamic and emerging” criminal threats regionally and globally.

Noting that the JDF Coast Guard is a critical part of Jamaica's national security apparatus, Charles said the unit is responsible for a maritime space that is 25 times Jamaica's size.

Against this background, he said the unit's fulfilment of its mandate, inclusive of protecting the nation against threats delivered by sea and protecting people who use the sea, “is an enormous task”.

“We are, indeed, pleased to accept the vessels… and pledge to continue the good partnership between our nations,” he said.

Khant, in his remarks, lauded the Government for prioritising the safeguarding of Jamaica's coastline and territorial waters in light of increasing transnational criminal activities.

He said this would lay the foundation for creating a prosperous and peaceful society, which is “also in the United States' interest”, due to the countries' close proximity to each other.

“These boats are a symbol of our commitment to our Jamaican partners. We assure you that we stand with you in your fight against criminal organisations,” he added.

For his part, Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Rocky Meade, said the auxiliary vessels “will support and enhance the capability of the existing fleet, in the fulfilment of the mandate of the Coast Guard”.

“We gladly accept these vessels that illustrate the continued strong partnership between our countries, and we commit to putting them to great use to support our joint security interests,” he added.

Head of the JDF Coast Guard, Commander Antonette Wemyss-Gorman, assured that the boats and equipment “will be employed efficiently by this unit (in) all our roles and missions”.