St Vincent and the Grenadines is now better-equipped to patrol the waters of its exclusive economic zone in a bid to reduce illegal activities such as drug-trafficking, trafficking of arms and ammunition, human trafficking and even theft of lobster pots among other crimes.
This, with yesterday’s commissioning ceremony held at the Cruise ship berth in Kingstown of the 140-ft offshore patrol vessel purchased by the government from the Damen Shipyard in Holland.
The vessel, named Captain Hugh Mulzac, is the only one of its kind in the OECS and has a capacity for 18 crew members and 4 guests and can remain at sea for a period of 14 days.
At the commissioning ceremony, Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves said that the overall cost of the vessel amounted to US$6.5 million which included training of coast guard officers, upgrading the coast guard base at Calliaqua to facilitate the vessel and the upgrading of the dorms at the coast guard base.
The finance minister said that for a multi-island state such as St Vincent and the Grenadines it is important to beef up the coast guard service. He noted that this year, with the recruitment of a number of police officers and coast guard officers this is the first time that the country can boast of have over 1,000 police officers and the coast guard service can boast of having over 100 officers. He said it indicates the seriousness with which the government views the safety of the citizens of this country.
Gonsalves noted that this country is located between producers/suppliers and consumers of drugs and he commended Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves for his “vision and foresight.”
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves in addressing the importance of the blue economy to a country that has an agriculture-based economy, said there is need to protect the state’s resources and the people who are working on the seas to prevent people from other places to come in and fish, hence the beefing up of the coast guard’s assets.
Prime Minister Gonsalves said that among the functions the new coast guard vessel will perform are: national defense, customs enforcement, environmental enforcement, search and rescue, maritime law enforcement, pericardial evacuation and search and rescue operations.