February 6, 2009
Black Squad to take to high seas

Criminal elements who engage in illegal activities on the sea will have less space in which to operate.

Soon, in addition to members of the Coast Guard, would-be drug traffickers and thieves who prey on yachts will have to deal with the Rapid Response Unit (RRU).{{more}}

Plans are afoot to have vessels confiscated by police, refurbished and docked on trailers at coastal police bases, so that at a moment’s notice these officers can be in hot pursuit of felons at sea.

Currently, two boats are set to be refurbished as part of this programme and the RRU officers, better known as Black Squad, will undergo some basic training by their Coast Guard counterpart, as it relates to operating the vessels.

Speaking to SEARCHLIGHT earlier this week, Lieutenant Commander Brendon Cain, of the Coast Guard, said that the initiative was the brainchild of Commissioner of Police Keith Miller, aimed at cutting down the response time of the police when dealing with crime committed in this country’s waters.

“Sometimes, by the time we are able to respond from the base here in Calliaqua, it may be too late,” the Commander explained.

He, however, said that plans are being put in place to upgrade the Coast Guard’s fleet so that they can have a vessel which will enable the Coast Guard to patrol the waters for an extended period of time.

“It is not just about drugs, but it is also about protecting our fishing environment and dealing with environmental concerns,” Commander Cain said.

Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, February 3, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves also spoke about the need to upgrade the Coast Guard’s assets.

Dr Gonsalves was responding to a question asked by Opposition Senator St Clair Leacock, who wanted to know what government’s plans were for the vessel Captain Mulzac that was being used sparingly for some time before going out of commission two years ago.

Dr Gonsalves said that it would cost an estimated Euros 600,000 to refurbish that vessel, which wasn’t a feasible option.

He said that government was discussing the possibility of purchasing a modern vessel which will cost about US $16 million.

The Prime Minister, who also has responsibility for National Security, reminded the House that the Coast Guard fleet has been upgraded once since the country gained independence in 1979.

The H K Tannis, a secondhand vessel, which was purchased for EC$2.3 million, was commissioned in August of 2005.

Dr Gonsalves said that many in the opposition New Democratic Party questioned the value of the vessel without knowing the various capabilities and features that the vessel possessed.