SANCO Bay, Portland — After 35 years of service in the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Coast Guard, Her Majesty Jamaica Ship (HMJS) Paul Bogle was sent to its final resting place as a fish habitat, artificial reef, and dive site in the Portland Fishery Conservation Area on Sunday.
In a brief retirement ceremony at Sanco Bay, Geejam beach, Chief of Defence Staff Rear Admiral Antonette Wemyss Gorman said, "Paul Bogle was very special to me… as when I went into the coast guard in 1994 she was one of the two larger vessels that could accommodate me going to sea as a female as I was placed on it and it was renovated to accommodate me going on the sea.
"She was in service for 13 years and I spent five of those 13 years on her as the navigating officer. It's a very special vessel to me as I spent my worst and best days on it."
The HMJS Paul Bogle was initially reported as a gift from the United States to Jamaica, but other reports suggested that it was the first vessel purchased by the Government for the JDF.
It started operation in the 1980s and was named after Jamaican National Hero Paul Bogle.
During its service, the vessel was employed in the execution of numerous JDF Coast Guard missions as well as in assistance to local and foreign governments and non-governmental organisations.
The vessel was used to take members of the JDF to the US Statue of Liberty, engaged in maritime law enforcement, maritime safety, search and rescue, port security, customs and immigration enforcement, and fisheries protection.
The vessel was also involved in the seizure of more than 15,000 pounds of marijuana and 4,000 pounds of cocaine in Jamaican waters.
"It's a very happy moment for me to be a part of the journey partnering with the Alligator Head Foundation as I had visions of having the Paul Bogle remain in service to the people of Jamaica after she was not able to sail as I thought she would remain in Port Royal as a museum and that would require a whole lot of money to do.
"When I was approached about having it placed in the sanctuary as a dive site and a sanctuary for fish, I thought was a brilliant idea. I set about getting the appropriate approval, Ministry of Defence, NEPA [National Environment and Planning Agency], to get her here this morning safely, and here it is," said Wemyss Gorman.
"The benefit of this dive site and reef structure is not known to most Jamaicans. Most Jamaicans just go to the beach and they buy a fish and they want the biggest parrot fish and they don't understand what it means, the impact of what they are eating on their table, all the various things that come together to make that possible and that we need to do it properly. We need to have sustainable practices that will ensure that our future generations are able to benefit from the environment," added Wemyss Gorman.
According to Wemyss Gorman, "With Paul Bogle going into a controlled dive site, a reef that will enable scientific research and foster the fishery sanctuary, nursery for the fishery is a good way for her to continue to serve Jamaica. This is very important to the future of Jamaica and in particular those stakeholders who use the sea and all of us who use the sea for our survival."
In the meantime, Dr Gavin Bellamy, executive director of the National Fisheries Authority said, "Today we gather to bid farewell and to witness the scuffling of the Paul Bogle, the recommissioning of a JDF vessel and welcome the birth of a new ecosystem.
"It marks not an end but a remarkable beginning, a transformation of a vessel that once sailed the open seas for a haven for marine life in our protected waters. Our ocean needs our protection and stewardship. Repurposing this vessel as an artificial reef within our marine-protected area takes significant steps toward preserving and restoring the delicate balance of our underwater world.
Dr Bellamy added, "This vessel is a testament of human engineering [and] now becomes the cornerstone of an ecological survivor. As it makes it descent to the ocean floor it takes with it hopes of a healthier marine system. Corals will make its home on its hull and fish will make their homes. The decision to create this artificial reef displays our commitment to conservation marine life and will enrich our future."