“Our loss is the country’s gain.”
So said Anglican Bishop Claude Berkley about the nomination of Justice Paula-Mae Weekes as the sixth President of T&T.
National Security Minister Gary Griffith says Government will be employing modern high-tech equipment such as helicopters, drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), hovercrafts, fast patrol vessels and interceptors to stem the influx of drugs, illegal firearms and human trafficking into the country.
The National Security Minister said the 21st century state-of-the-art equipment will replace the outdated, defective and inappropriate security assets including the blimp, six Austal patrol vessels, over 15 interceptors and defective radar that are all in need of repair.
He was responding to United States Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs William Brownfield’s statement that the amount of drugs passing through the Caribbean bound for the US had quadrupled in the last year. T&T is a major transshipment point.
Speaking to the Sunday Guardian on Thursday, Griffith said, “There have been legitimate concerns pertaining to securing our borders from the illegal entry of drugs, weapons and human smuggling, which entails much more than just throwing three offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) in the water. “We need to ascertain the intelligence and also analyse the importance of securing our borders” at both illegal and legitimate ports of entry to avoid such occurrences as the US $100 million cocaine in juice cans drug bust, he said.
“To this effect, we will be working with the Ministry of Transport to put proper mechanisms in place to provide a deterrent and also to pinpoint specific mechanisms to ensure successful operational capability for interception without going into details.” He said the sophisticated equipment will be deployed in a maritime lock-down consisting of a three-tier layer of protection:
•The first tier will have interceptors operating from the shoreline to two miles out.
• The second tier will comprise 50-metre fast patrol vessels operating from two miles to ten miles out.
•And the third tier will consist of a long-range patrol vessel (LRPV) to secure the country’s economic zone from 12 to 200 miles.
Griffith said the new, fast and manoeuvrable interceptors were some of the most sophisticated in the world, capable of defeating any boat in the Great Race and able to handle the rough waters of the Gulf unlike their predecessors. He said the very effective and highly reliable seacraft will be locking down the shoreline, equipped with GPS tracking, linked with radar, and working in tandem with aerial surveillance from drones and helicopters. Coordination will be done by the National Operations Centre (NOC).