THE Coast Guard’s newest weapon in the fight against the illegal gun and narcotics trade in our territorial waters was formally unveiled yesterday by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar during a viewing ceremony at the International Waterfront, Port-of-Spain.
The TTS Point Lisas is the first of 12 vessels worth a combined total of TT$1.358 billion which were ordered by Government from Damen Shipyards in the Netherlands.
Persad-Bissessar in her address said the second vessel, the TTS La Brea will arrive in the country on June 2. The other four will arrive in July and the remaining vessels will arrive by the end of they year.
“These two vessels will immediately get to work to boost the capability of the Defence Force to allow TT more effective management of our coastal waters. The vessels will also patrol the waters of our country’s exclusive economic zone,” she said.
She said the vessels are fitted with firefighting equipment, a heavy duty crane and will permit a variety of tasks to be undertaken such as vessel recovery, buoy maintenance
The Prime Minister reiterated that the 12 vessels cost less than the three off-shore patrol vessels (OPVs) that were ordered by the previous Government.
“The three OPVs which the Government was bounded to by contract in 2007 cost TT$2.214 billion for three OPVs and compared to the 12 which is half the price.
“These vessels only had long range capabilities, they could not assist in securing our coasts and they were teamed with small vessels. I found it bewildering that our detractors still insist on misinforming the public that the higher cost, lower capability contract was better,” she said.
Commanding officer, Captain Hayden Pritchard of the TT Coast Guard in his address said the coast guard has done “so much for so long” that the impending arrivals of the vessels portends bad news for illegal traffickers and good news for law abiding citizens.
“As the capacity of the Coast Guard will increase to the extent that we can satisfy our mandate to the citizens of the country.
“The shortcomings of the Coast Guard are based on resource and asset constraints therefore to fulfil the performance gaps that have been identified, acquisitions like you see today are not only critical they are mandatory,” he said.