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National Security Minister, Dr. Peter Phillips has said that the acquisition of a new maritime vessel by the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Coast Guard should boost the JDF’s capability to protect the island’s sea borders, which has long been an attractive transhipment location for criminal activities.
He pointed out that the vessel, which has been named HMJS Cornwall, represented a significant investment on the part of the government in re-equipping the JDF’s operational capacity, and it is expected that the vessel would “limit the flow of illegal narcotics, drugs and ammunition” around the country’s borders.
Dr. Phillips was speaking yesterday (October 27), at the naming and commissioning of the HMJS Cornwall, at a ceremony held at the JDF’s Coast Guard base in Port Royal. The vessel’s manufacturer from The Netherlands, officially delivered the vessel to the Coast Guard on September 18.
The Minister said the new vessel should help to provide environmental protection for fishermen and also be resourceful in acting as a means of disaster relief for citizens, not only in Jamaica, but those from neighbouring countries as well.
The HMJS Cornwall is the first of three county class vessels, which are named after the counties in Jamaica. The other two vessels, HMJS Middlesex and HMJS Surrey are expected to be delivered next month and in June 2006.
“As a government, we will be moving at full pace to ensure that the other vessels will be in service by the middle of next year, so that we can significantly strengthen the capacity of both the Coast Guard and the marine police to maintain the integrity of our borders,” Dr. Phillips said.
The three offshore vessels, along with the refurbishing of an existing vessel, and the training of personnel will cost an estimated $1.864 billion (US$29.6 million), financed through a 35 per cent grant to the Jamaican government from the Dutch Export Development Agency and 65 per cent financing from the Dutch ING Bank.
The HMJS Cornwall, along with the other two vessels, are built by Damen Shipyards in The Netherlands. The HMJS Cornwall, with commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Markland Wilson, has a crew of 16 persons.
According to the Coast Guard, the ship will be employed in fulfilling such operations as search and rescue, fisheries protection, marine law enforcement, coastal surveillance, anti smuggling and drug interdiction, and marine environmental pollution control.
In addition, the ship will provide assistance to the civil power and government agencies, ceremonial duties and maritime safety.