Features — 26 January 2016 — by Johnelle McKenzie

BELIZE CITY, Tues., Jan. 19, 2016–The Belize Coast Guard is shaping up to be “a force to be reckoned with” in the effort to combat “transnational organized crime and to extend its support to Central America and the Caribbean”, Admiral John Borland of the Belize Coast Guard said at a press briefing held today where he gave an overview of 2015. The Coast Guard is tasked with defending our maritime areas and in 2015 celebrated their 10th anniversary, Borland said.

Borland further remarked that the Coast Guard has come a long way since its inception in 2005 from 50 strong to 320 in 2015 and that it is aiming to have 700 officers by 2020.

One of the key achievements of 2015 was the amendment of the Coast Guard Act in December 2015; as a result the Coast Guard is now a military organization with law enforcement authority and with the capability to make arrests in its effort to enforce maritime laws at sea, noted Borland.

Borland added that another major achievement was the signing of the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) loan agreement by the government of Belize, which will make it possible for the Belize Coast Guard to acquire two 3007 – 30 meters (100 feet) long, and 7 meters (21 feet) wide) C Acts class patrol boats, which he says will play an important role “in shaping the future of the Coast Guard as it gives us a capability never imagined in the conduct of maritime and naval operations to the limits of our sea spaces and across the region.”

Borland said that they have extended their operation — moving from coastal to territorial sea operations, and now they have a permanent presence at Northern Ambergris Caye and Consejo Village to combat the crime and violence affecting those areas.

Borland added that they are a supporting agency to the Fisheries Department, the police, the Belize Defence Force (BDF), and the Immigration and Customs departments on those occasions when they are called upon to render their assistance in executing various operations.

Also, Borland said that in 2015 they conducted trainings both locally and abroad to develop the aptitude of the force. He went on to say that these trainings were made possible through a partnership with countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada and Mexico, who allowed “the Coast Guard to train at their institutions with their forces.”

Borland recollected how the Coast Guard has come a long way from using Mexican skiffs and confiscated Columbian vessels, to their present fleet upgrade of Boston Whalers and SAFE Boats (which are both interceptor vessels). And after 10 years, they are now getting a “brand new state of the art facility,” he announced.

The Coast Guard unit posted at Hunting Caye is operating out of the old facility since the Forward Operating Base that is to be constructed on Sarstoon Island was put on hold; however, a contract should be awarded shortly for the completion of the Forward Operating Base, Borland said.

In regards to the Forward Operating Base in the Sarstoon, Borland said that the BDF is responsible for its construction. He added that it will be operated by both the BDF and the Coast Guard once completed since they have “overlapping jurisdiction in the area.”

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