The Belize Defence Force Maritime Unit morphed into the Belize National Coast Guard in 2005, and its current commander, Captain John Borland was promoted to Rear Admiral when the Coast Guard celebrated its seventh anniversary at its new headquarters at mile 4 on the George Price Highway Friday, November 30.
That fledgling force of 44 ex-BDF sailors and 10 police officers piloting six skiffs has since grown to 152 officers with several more vessels, including two Boston Whalers donated by the United States government.
The Coast Guard’s role in interdicting Colombian drug traffickers at sea and their capture of “square grouper” have prompted the US Government to also donate radar, night vision goggles, navigation equipment and communications gear to their efforts.
Rear Admiral John Borland, who has served in Belize security forces for the past 25 years and has prepared for his new rank by attending the Royal Naval College, announced plans to double the size of his force to 332 men, serving effectively as the naval enforcement of all Belize’s maritime laws , including fisheries regulations.
The Coast Guard also has a humanitarian role. It helps with search-and-rescue efforts for those lost at sea, and it plays a significant role in evacuation procedures when there is a hurricane threat, and other natural disasters. The Coast Guard also assists port management and other environmental agencies when a vessel runs aground, and there’s possibility of an oil/fuel spill.
The U.S. government has also assisted the Coast Guard’s development of infrastructure, such as a forward operating base being built on Ambergris Caye, scheduled to be completed by next April 2013, and another forward operating base for our southern waters, planned to be built at Hunting Caye, with work scheduled to begin in the new year.