Last update: 09-Dec-2013 1:43 am
Monday, December 09, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Griffith plans for maritime lockdown
A “maritime security lockdown” of T&T is one of the new initiatives National Security Minister Gary Griffith intends to implement to combat crime. Speaking after a meeting with the top brass of the Coast Guard yesterday, Griffith said the funds which would have been utilised for the acquisition of three offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) would be used to purchase new equipment.
“I could use half of those funds to purchase a launch patrol vessel that can still lock down our shores of our exclusive economic zone but more importantly it affords me the opportunity now to utilise these funds which at the end of next year I intend to lock down the shore with the acquisition of interceptors,” he said. “Those will be faster than any vessel in the country. Even the boats entering the great race could hardly keep up with it.”
In November 2012, an arbitration between UK-based BAE Systems and T&T over the cancellation of an order for three (OPVs was settled in this country’s favour for $1.382 billion. Asked where the Government was sourcing the vessels from, the National Security Minister said he was not sure as the tendering process had just begun. Saying there were “specifics” he wanted the vessels to be equipped with, Griffith added: “We need to ensure that no drugrunner or gunrunner could outrun those vessels.”
He said in the first instance the Government intended to purchase between four and six vessels to implement 24-hour patrols. “At all times we want to ensure the island is locked down,” he said. “Whereas before, the radar might have picked up a vessel which might have entered our shores illegally and by the time they actually get to the location they, (drug and gun dealers) would have dropped off and head back out.
“The interceptors now would be working in tandem with the radar and the helicopters so at any time there is an alert about any illegal entry of any vessel we can then utilise the helicopters and the interceptors to track and lock those vessels.” In November 2012, then national security minister Jack Warner said the Government had intended to purchase six naval vessels from the Colombian government because that country had been most successful in fighting crime.
Asked whether he would be fulfilling this plan, Griffith said he intended to purchase vessels that would suit the needs of the country. He said: Therein lies the problem. I am not going to recommend what I feel is effective. I am going to go with the recommendation of those who are really on the ground. “I am going to liaise a lot with the Coast Guard and look at what their concerns are,” he said.
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