By Marion V. Ali
Poised on its tenth year of existence, the Belize National Coast Guard is making strides to meet the goals of its 2020 strategic plan of action.
It aims to begin, in the near future, its Beyond the Reef Blue Water Operation, a move that will enable it to patrol the high seas known as the Exclusive Economic Zone.
Colonel George Lovell, chief executive officer in the Ministry of National Security told The Reporter that this exclusive economic zone extends into the Caribbean Sea for a distance of 200 miles.
This is an area rife with piracy, illegal fishing and other clandestine illicit activity.
But in order to patrol these waters, the BelizeCoast Guard must first acquire two 87-foot maritime “Protection Class” patrol boats. Belize has already procured a loan from CABEI, the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, for two of these versatile ocean-going crafts to enable Belize to pursue its Integral Security Program (BISP).
This program is aligned to the wider Central American Security Strategy project.
Col.Lovell said the long-term strategic plan aims to shape the capabilities of the sea, land and air components of the country’s response mechanism Aside from this, there will be a complement of nine forward operating bases, an upgrade from the four Belize now has.
By 2020, Colonel Lovell said,“there will be a reorganization of the entire Coast Guard to create sectors throughout the country, each to deal with its own area, with different deployment of resources.”
In tandem with its commitment to meet the strategy on time, late last year the Belize Coast Guard added 44 members to its ranks, including 39 men and five women.
By the end of 2015, the Coast Guard strategy calls for an increase in its enrollment to 325 persons. By 2020, the plan is to increase the number of human personnel to 565, with a fleet of 30 small boats.