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Jan 20, 2016

Coast Guard Presents 2015 Report Card

Ten years after its establishment, the Belize Coast Guard has grown considerably in numbers as well as in the scope of duties. Today, it presented a report card of accomplishments even as it projects further growth in its long-term strategy. One issue on the horizon is to be held in partnership with the Belize Defense Force down south at the Sarstoon River. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

With a mandate that covers a gamut of maritime law enforcement operations, including drug trafficking, illegal fishing, contraband, human and weapons smuggling, as well as search and rescue, the Belize National Coast Guard has had a busy 2015 calendar.  This morning, the senior command presented last year’s report card to Minister of National Security John Saldivar.

 

John Borland

Rear Admiral John Borland, Commander, BNCG

“The year 2015 marked some significant achievements in the development of the Belize [National] Coast Guard.  The coast guard celebrated its tenth anniversary which symbolized ten years of existence and contribution to the safety, security and protection of Belize.  The coast guard also reached the end of its medium term strategy for development and operations.  We are now in long term strategy which will take us to 2020.  The coast guard grew from a strength of fifty in 2005 when we started, to three hundred and twenty in 2015, but more significant, over the last two years, since 2012 the coast guard grew from a strength of one hundred and twenty to three hundred and twenty.”

 

Aside from an official sanction to increase its strength in numbers over the next four years, the Belize National Coast Guard was instrumental in designating a location for a new forward operating base on the bank of the Sarstoon River.

 

Rear Admiral John Borland

“Critical was the approval of our new recruiting policy from the National Security Council to grow the coast guard by a hundred each year to reach the desired end strength of seven hundred by the year 2020.  We saw the operational reach and tempo increase to extend our operations from coastal to territorial sea operations.  We increased our patrols to include a permanent presence at Northern Ambergris Caye to maintain control of an area threatened by illicit activity, crime and violence.  We continue to maintain a patrol operating out of temporary facilities in Consejo.  We also were engaged and involved in the reconnaissance and the sighting of a suitable location for the construction of a forward operating base in the Sarstoon area where we shall be partnering with the B.D.F. to provide safety, security and protection for our citizens and our resources in that area.”

 

Perhaps as important as the power of arrest is an ability to autonomously discipline one’s own.  That piece of legislation has since been approved to allow the coastguard to punish errant seamen.

 

Alma Pinelo

Lt. Jr. Grade Alma Pinelo, Adjutant, BNCG

“The Coast Guard Act was approved in December 2015 and the main effort was to fully establish the Belize Coast Guard as a military organization and giving us the power to arrest at sea for any law enforcement violations.  Discipline:  The Belize Coast Guard Regulation is still under amendments so therefore our discipline system is under the Public Service Regulations.  Having our regulations fully back into effect will greatly affect the discipline system of the coast guard and it will impact it for the good.  The PSR can discipline but the process is lengthy and it takes away the concept in the military as on the spot discipline to discipline sailors as they commit any infractions.”

 

While its limited personnel aren’t omnipresent, the coast guard maintains a permanent presence in problem areas such as Consejo.  That location, as the Belize Defense Force has identified, is a hotbed for illicit activity.

 

Greg Soberanis

Lt. Greg Soberanis, Operations Officer, BNCG

“The coast guard had nine customs offences that we dealt with through the courts.  These offences and violations we provide support to our sister agencies in reports, our presence for the court cases which eventually leads to conviction of these personnel and they are charged.  Some face jail time and some are levied with financial charges.  This is the current disposition of our fleet.  We have a team stationed in Consejo, Northern Ambergris or Bacalar Chico foot patrol.  We maintain constant presence in that area as that area proves to be one of the hostile areas for the coast guard.  We maintain presence at our station in San Pedro.”

 

Today’s presentation concluded the year in review for the Ministry of National Security, as previous exercises have been completed by the Belize Police Department and the Belize Defense Force, respectively. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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