Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley hit the nail on the head yesterday at the commissioning of two new Cape Class vessels for the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard at Staubles Bay, Chaguaramas.
In delivering the feature address to the Coast Guard officers on hand, the Prime Minister indicated that they no longer had any excuse for not hunting down the human traffickers, drug dealers and gun runners who use this country as a transhipment point of operations.
Noting reports of attacks against T&T fishermen by pirates and other criminal elements, the Prime Minister said: “You are required to discourage that. You would have seen the amount of firearms on our streets and the effect that that is having on our safety and our security, your first line of defence is the nation’s first line of defence.”
Prime Minister Rowley implored the Coast Guard to use the vessels, which are equipped with sophisticated technology, to track and chase down the criminal element and, more importantly, to bring back a sense of security as far as the protection of our borders are concerned.
The Prime Minister is quite right in his assertion and appeal. However, we are sure that the Prime Minister is also fully aware that the acquisition of new equipment does not necessarily translate into success against those who earn their living off nefarious activities.
The Government spent US$77.2 million to purchase the vessels — the TTS Scarborough and TTS Port-of-Spain — from Australian shipbuilder Austal. The vessels are equipped to carry 27 officers and 12 additional people and have a top speed of 20 knots and a 3,000 nautical mile range. It is hoped they will give the Coast Guard the ability to patrol and secure a quarter of a million square kilometres during their operations. In theory, they will now allow the Coast Guard to deploy in the Atlantic Ocean for longer periods and to launch smaller vessels to respond to incidents.
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi also noted yesterday that money was spent to ensure officers were trained on how to use the new technology on the vessels. Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds was also looking forward to seeing how the new vessels work, pointing out that there is also a promise that T&T will assist other Caribbean countries when they require such support via these new vessels.
The PM said it best yesterday when he told officers, “You have good technology to determine who is around you, use it. You have good technology to strategise, to outthink and to outrun, those who are bent on criminal activity - do that.”
Needless to say, the TTCG now has no excuse in terms of the equipment they need. It is, however, now left up to TTCG Commanding Officer Don Polo to motivate his charges and devise strategies to ensure the country’s borders are protected in a manner desired by all. More importantly, Commanding Officer Polo must also ensure the vessels are properly maintained to give the TTGS the full longevity of their use. The citizenry thus waits with bated breath to see the benefits of this latest investment in our national security apparatus.