Sat | May 25, 2019

US gives JDF Coast Guard further boost

Published:Friday | May 10, 2019 | 12:31 AMCorey Robinson/Staff Reporter
From left: Lt Gen Rocky Meade, chief of defence staff  of the Jamaica Defence Force; Eric Khant, chargé d’affaires, United States Embassy; and Able-Bodied Seaman Oral Morrison check out the controls of the Boston whaler vessel at the handover ceremony at the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Coast Guard’s Port Royal base yesterday.
From left: Lt Gen Rocky Meade, chief of defence staff of the Jamaica Defence Force; Eric Khant, chargé d’affaires, United States Embassy; and Able-Bodied Seaman Oral Morrison check out the controls of the Boston whaler vessel at the handover ceremony at the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Coast Guard’s Port Royal base yesterday.

The Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Coast Guard’s capacity to collar smugglers and carry out search-and-rescue operations was further bolstered yesterday with the handover of two additional vessels from the United States (US).

The vessels – a Boston whaler and a secure all-around flotation equipped boat – completed a US$20 million donation package from the US since 2014. Eight other vessels have already been donated.

Also included in the package are four Ford pickup trucks, maintenance parts for the vehicles, and training for coast guard members.

The high-speed vessels are primarily useful in inshore patrols, drug interdiction, and search-and-rescue missions and will be pivotal in the fight against the illicit drugs-for-guns trade between gangsters in Jamaica and other Caribbean countries.

“In using the previous eight vessels, we know for a fact that these vessels are indispensable components of our maritime operations and have improved our capabilities significantly. I’ve operated on these vessels and can attest to their manoeuvrability, comfort, and the significant capability they provide this unit,” Lt Cdr Aceion Prescott, acting commanding officer of the JDF Coast Guard, said at yesterday’s handover ceremony at the JDF Coast Guard headquarters in Port Royal, Kingston.

Eric Khant, chargé d’ affaires at the US Embassy, said the donation was part of a mutually beneficial partnership Jamaica and the US have maintained for decades.

“We are here today not only to officially transfer patrol boats and associated support equipment, but also to celebrate our strong ties with Jamaica on many fronts that allow both our countries to advance our shared interests,” said Khant.

“Countering transnational crimes is one of those shared goals … . While these boats help Jamaica counter threats, the real assets that keep Jamaica and the region safe are the people.

“It is your dedication and commitment to continue improving the security of your home country and the region that makes Jamaica an ideal partner for the US. Without you, these boats are useless. So we count on you to put them to good use,” he said to applause from the group.

Chief of Defence Staff Lt Gen Rocky Meade, in accepting the vessels, said they would help in the long-term efforts of the JDF.

“As part of plan ‘Secure Jamaica’, the Jamaica Defence Force is in a process of restructuring, building out our human infrastructure and technical resources to provide a safe and secure environment for the achievement of Vision 2030,” he said.

“We don’t have all the resources we need, and even if we did, the best way to tackle a network is for us to work together in a network of our own. In that context, it is significant to have a partner like the United States of America that provides training and resources towards our joint effort,” he said.

corey.robinson@gleanerjm.com