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SVG takes an aggressive stand on keeping region safe

SVG takes an aggressive stand on keeping region safe


CoastGuard officers are now expected to get less mist in their eyes from better-equipped boats operated by criminals.{{more}}

The Coastguard now has two 33-foot Defender Class Interceptor vessels, compliments the United States’ Secure Seas programme.

The vessels were handed over at the Coastguard base at Calliaqua yesterday.

In addition to the two boats, the Coastguard received one pick-up truck and one year’s supply of spare parts, valued at US$1.85 million (EC$4.995 million).

The equipment was donated under the Secure Seas programme, under the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CSBI), introduced by U.S. President Barack Obama during the Fifth Summit of the Americas in 2009.

The Secure Seas programme is a maritime security assistance initiative that aims to boost the capabilities of the countries across the region to deter threats associated with transnational organized crime.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, speaking at the handing over ceremony, explained that the problem with drug trafficking was more than the health risk it posed to the potential users.

Gonsalves, who is also Minister of National Security, said the illicit activity creates gangs and leads to crime and violence.

Money laundering, he said, corrupts the money systems and provide more resources for the illegal trade.

The prime minister said Regional Security Systems (RSS) personnel would also use the two vessels during joint operations.

Two RSS aircraft are used to assist the Coast-guard, but on the sea it was difficult at times to catch vessels that have better equipment than the Coastguard, Gonsalves said.

“Unless there’s something to follow them, it’s mist in your eyes,” he said.

“These vessels will make life difficult for those who ply their trade,” Gonsalves further stated.

The two interceptor vessels, Gonsalves said, will also assist the Customs Department and will be used for search and rescue.

‘Aggressive stance’

Meanwhile, Larry Palmer, U.S. Ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, told the ceremony that the partnership is underscored by the cooperative working relationship between the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force — especially its Coastguard — and the United States military and law enforcement agencies.

“You all have been strong partners and taken an aggressive stance to keep this region safe from illicit narcotics trafficking and other threats to the maritime borders of our shared region,” he said.

Palmer further said that the support package was just one part of the long term US commitment to support this country’s ongoing capacity building efforts to increase its national security.

This country has now received some US$2 million in direct bilateral assistance since the launch of the CSBI in 2009, Palmer said.

Projects under this initiative include the construction of a Coastguard base in Canouan, which, Palmer said, is expected to strengthen maritime law enforcement and search and rescue capabilities.

“I admit that I am most proud that our partnership with St Vincent and the Grenadines is much broader than security,” he said adding that the work between both countries has been to their benefit and that of the region.

Twenty Coastguard officers — including one customs officer to enhance border control — were also involved in a two-week, Secure Seas training course, which ended last Friday.