No unmanned aircraft for Coast Guard as yet

The Coast Guard confiscated 1,024 kilos of cocaine, 7.5 kilos heroin and 68.5 kilos of marijuana and five firearms in the Dutch Caribbean in 2014, writes The Daily Herald.

Five illegals were arrested and the Coast Guard was deployed 200 times in Search and Rescue (SAR) operations, during which 49 persons were brought to safety, Minister of Defence Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert wrote in a letter to the Dutch Parliament’s Second Chamber on Friday.

Minister Hennis presented the 2014 annual report of the Coast Guard’s operations in the Caribbean part of the Dutch Kingdom, also on behalf of Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk. The Coast Guard operated under a budget of 35.6 million euros last year.

As to the deployment of unmanned aircraft in the Caribbean, Minister Hennis said that tests with the lightweight aerial vehicle Raven proved it unfit for future air reconnaissance operations. The Minister announced “broader investigations” into other types of unmanned aircraft for the Coast Guard later this year.

Based on the annual plan and the Judiciary Policy Plan 2014-2017 the Coast Guard operations focused last year on the combatting of international drug transports, detection of firearms and illegal immigration and human smuggling and trafficking. Contacts with local stakeholders were improved, said Minister Hennis.

International cooperation is also deemed of the utmost importance. Therefore, the Coast Guard, in cooperation with the Ministries of Home Affairs and Defence, closed Memorandums of Understanding with Colombia and Jamaica in the area of maritime law enforcement. The Coast Guard also took part in the large regional “Tradewinds” exercise near the Dominican Republic.

In connection with SAR operations, which are held in St. Maarten in cooperation with Sea Rescue Foundation, it was stated that the cooperation with the French Coast Guard in joint patrols and patrols in the Dutch and French territorial waters have been temporarily suspended awaiting ratification of an operational cooperation agreement by the authorities in Paris.

Technical problems, caused by lightning, led to reduced availability of the coastal radar system in Aruba and Curaçao. “No progress has been observed in connection with the plans of France for a coastal radar system in St. Maarten. The plans are currently still in the preparatory phase. The progress will also be monitored in 2015. There is currently no financial room in the Coast Guard’s budget to contribute to such a system,” it was stated in the annual report.

The Coast Guard also holds (safety) inspections of vessels. In the report it was stated that inspections in St. Maarten remained 24 per cent below the norm of 800 vessels. Instead, only 607 vessels were inspected. According to the Coast Guard, this was due to the fact that during the 2014 high season there were fewer vessels to inspect than foreseen.

As to the AW-139 helicopter, it was stated that the aircraft was seconded to St. Maarten for two periods of two weeks, during which it was in the air for 100 hours. In total, the AW-139 was airborne for 991 hours.

The Cougar helicopter could not be deployed in St. Maarten because Princess Juliana International Airport SXM does not meet military safety requirements.

The Coast Guard station ships were deployed in the Windward Islands for 60 per cent of their available time. In connection with St. Eustatius and Saba, the annual report stated that the Coast Guard was present on the islands for 146 days in 2014, which is 26 days above the 120-day norm.

Integrity issues were also mentioned in the report, in reference to a Coast Guard official in Curaçao, who was suspended under suspicion of drug possession and an officer in St. Maarten who had caused a traffic accident while driving without a licence.

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