Senior Political Reporter
The T&T Coast Guard does not currently have and never had enough vessels to provide 24-hour patrol service along all areas of T&T’s entire coastline.
This was revealed in a written reply from National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds to a question from UNC MP Rodney Charles, which was circulated in Parliament on Wednesday.
Charles’ query cited “numerous social media videos” circulating, involving Coast Guard patrol vessels tied up on various occasions at Staubles Bay. Charles asked what steps are being taken to guarantee a 24/7 coastline coverage.
Hinds’ reply stated, “This is a matter of National Security and therefore any information provided will be circumscribed by security considerations.”
“According to information from the Chief of Defence Staff, the T&T Coast Guard (TTCG) does not currently have, and in fact, never had, enough assets to provide a 24-hour patrol service along all areas of the entire coastline of T&T.
“That would require a huge fleet, and, in fact, no country in the world has a coast guard with that capability. Instead, the TTCG uses the assets in its arsenal to provide coverage to areas of operational interest.”
He added, “When a former PNM administration had ordered three Offshore Patrol Vessels to bolster the TTCG’s capabilities, the last UNC government (now Opposition) cancelled the contract capriciously. These Amazonas Class vessels, which were rejected by the UNC government, were delivered to the Brazilian Navy in 2012 and 2013 and made an important contribution to that Navy’s ability to provide security, safety and protection to Brazil’s jurisdictional waters.
“To remedy the situation, which effectively stymied the operational proficiencies of the TTCG, this current Government ordered two Cape Class Patrol Vessels from Australia in 2018, which were received in 2021. These vessels, along with other assets, have formed part of the country’s border security arsenal, and strengthened the TTCG’s capabilities to conduct a wide range of operational activities. The assets have been regularly upgraded and maintained to ensure optimal performance.”
Hinds stated that notwithstanding the impossibility of providing a full 24-hour patrol for the entire 322 nautical miles of coastline in Trinidad and 130 nautical miles of coastline in Tobago, and territorial waters, the TTCG’s Coastal Radar System provides 24-hour monitoring. It was upgraded in 2020/2021, including surveillance equipment used by TTCG, to enhance monitoring and fortification of borders.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley replied to another question from Charles on TTPS body cameras. Rowley said resources have been made available for more cameras.
The Police Commissioner had spoken of this and 1,100 were obtained, another substantial purchase is being made and if more are required, it will be, it was noted.
Rowley said one of the benefits of the recent regional crime symposium is accelerated regional co-operation - higher sharing of information, equipment and personnel - which can only benefit citizens, especially where the major crime concerns of trafficking of guns, ammunition, drugs and people were involved.