General — 21 October 2014 — by Albert J. Ciego
Work won’t restart at Hunting Caye base just yet

BELIZE CITY–Efforts are reportedly underway to ensure that the remaining work to be done to complete the Forward Operation Base (FOB) for the Coast Guard being built on Hunting Caye, which is 75% complete, is carried out by a Belizean subcontractor and Belizean workers, but the project is presently on hold.

Admiral John Borland, Commanding Officer of the Coast Guard, in a press conference held on Tuesday at the Coast Guard Headquarters, announced that they met with the Ministry and the recommendation for a Belizean subcontractor to complete the construction of the base has been made by the Coast Guard to the Ministry.

A Guatemala company, Bonatti Ingenieros y Arquitectos Sociedad, had been awarded the contract to build the base by officials of the United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM), the organization that is funding the project, and that body must now approve the hiring of a Belizean subcontractor.

Admiral Borland said that because of this, he cannot set a deadline as to when the sub-contract will be awarded, or when workers will be hired to work on the Hunting Caye Coast Guard base.

The base was scheduled for completion by December, and Borland is hopeful that the structure can still be completed by that time. He said that the Coast Guard will continue to operate from Hunting Caye. The delay, he said, will not affect them.

Borland said that the base was last refurbished in 1989 by the Gurkhas under the British Forces in Belize, and when the Coast Guard took it over, it was in a state of disrepair.

In a statement issued by the US Embassy, USSOUTHCOM said that it is funding the Forward Operating Base (FOB) at Hunting Caye and other projects for the Belize Coast Guard through its Counterdrug Program in direct support of the Belize Coast Guard’s 2020 strategy.

The bidding process for the infrastructure projects was transparent and open to a pool of international contractors under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Central America “Multiple Award Task Order Contracts” (MATOCS), the release said, but later information to the media was that according to USSOUTHCOM, no Belizean contractor was qualified enough for the job.

The release said that the San Pedro FOB, also constructed by the same Bonatti Ingenieros y Arquitectos Sociedad, has had a tremendous positive impact on the ability of the Belize Coast Guard to project power and carry out operations in territorial waters, preserving Belize’s resources and providing sailors with a comfortable, safe and long-lasting platform from which to operate daily.

The Hunting Caye FOB will do the same for the Belize Coast Guard, the release said.

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