US donating 17 new patrol boats to police, JDF

The vessels, according to Ambassador Luis Moreno, form part of Washington’s assistance programme in the areas of security and disaster preparedness.

Ten 27-foot patrol vessels will be presented to the Police Marine Division, along with a boat maintenance facility at its Kingston headquarters, maintenance tools, and training.

Delivery of those boats, the US Embassy in Kingston said, is expected in August.

The Jamaica Defence Force Coast Guard will receive seven 37-foot patrol vessels either late this year or early 2016.

“These will be able to patrol the Jamaican coast, protect Jamaican coastal waters, protect fishermen, prevent drug smuggling, and prevent gun smuggling and trafficking in persons, Moreno told the Jamaica Observer last Wednesday.

The boats are costing the American Government US$6.4 million. Funding, the Embassy said, is being provided through the Department of State’s International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Section, and the US Department of Defense.

The patrol vessels will most likely be welcomed by the Jamaican authorities as, despite years of effort, the island is still regarded by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) as the largest illicit producer and exporter of cannabis in Central America and the Caribbean.

The INCB 2014 report, which was released in March this year, noted that in Jamaica, drug trafficking takes place at airports through drug couriers, baggage and air freight and at seaports via containers, cargo vessels, underwater canisters attached to ship hulls, shipping vessels, and speedboats.

The assistance by the Americans, though, extends beyond security, as according to Ambassador Moreno, preparedness is big on his and his Government’s agenda.

“We want to assist the Jamaican Government in being ready for any types of contingencies,” he told the Sunday Observer.

“We have to be frank; we sit on the same fault line as Port-au-Prince, Haiti, as far as an earthquake goes. We haven’t had a category three storm here in a couple of years, we’ve seemed to dodge the bullet… We have to be ready for any kind of contingency,” he emphasised.

Moreno’s Haiti reference was in relation to the massive magnitude 7.3 earthquake that levelled most of Port-au-Prince on January 12, 2010, killing more than 200,000 people and leaving over 300,000 injured.

The earthquake, regarded as the biggest in this region in 200 years, also left more than 1.5 million people homeless and triggered a humanitarian crisis. Last Wednesday, Ambassador Moreno said he has been working with his colleagues in the United States Southern Command — which is responsible for providing contingency planning, operations, and security co-operation in the Caribbean, Central and South America — “on simple things, even how we can assist if there is a fire at the dump, or some bad bush fires in the hills”.

He said he and his team at the Embassy have obtained funding to purchase helicopter buckets and lamented “I wish we could have done that sooner” in apparent reference to the fires that ravaged large sections of farmlands and homes in the St Andrew hills a few weeks ago.

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