THE HAGUE–The Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard is an organisation of the Kingdom that the countries should cherish and be proud of, Coast Guard commandant General Peter Jan de Vin told the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Thursday.
“Many people think that the Coast Guard largely consists of Dutch personnel, but that is not the case. The Coast Guard has turned into a more local organisation with personnel from the islands. Some expert assistance from the Netherlands will always remain necessary, but for the larger part it is an organisation by and for the islands. It is an organisation of which the countries can be proud,” he said. Of the 241 persons working for the Coast Guard, 207 are from the islands.
De Vin was invited to give a technical briefing to the Second Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations. The Coast Guard is an increasingly important organisation in the Kingdom, and especially in the Dutch Caribbean, with illicit drug transports on the rise and the higher number of Venezuelan refugees coming to Aruba and Curaçao by boat. The Coast Guard works closely with the United States (US) and other countries in the region in so-called counter-illicit-trafficking operations.
The illegal transports at sea do not only concern narcotics, but also weapons, money and human beings. And, these transports are becoming more organised, the criminal networks are more solidly organised and larger, and the volume gets bigger, said De Vin. This is mainly the result of the increased market in Europe and the US.
Consequently, the law enforcement system also needs to be a solid network, De Vin noted. Paramount in this are an integral approach by the law enforcement system, solid cooperation, sharing information and images, and strengthening each other. Strengthening the cooperation with the law enforcement partners is an important aspect. “A solid cooperation makes us all better and more effective,” said De Vin.
Aruba and Curaçao are popular destinations for Venezuela refugees due to their proximity. The illegal immigration is not only an issue, but also the associated smuggling of weapons and narcotics. All of this has an influence on the islands’ stability and results in more subversive crime.
The Coast Guard wants to invest more in criminal investigations and work more closely with other law enforcement partners in this area. A pilot programme has recently started in which the Coast Guard participates in a detective unit. In the near future, the Coast Guard will gather, secure and analyse information, and share this intelligence data with its partners, thus playing a more active part in fighting crime.
Although very appreciative of the work the Coast Guard does, the members of the Second Chamber expressed their concerns about the developments in Venezuela and the consequences thereof. De Vin said the Coast Guard was ready for the current situation and alluded that if things got worse, he could request additional support from the Dutch government. “And otherwise we have to improvise together.”
Another matter the Coast Guard has to take into account is the global warming which will lead to a heavier workload because extremer hurricanes and other natural disasters will lead to more requests for assistance. The Coast Guard played an important role in the disaster relief operation after Hurricane Irma.
De Vin shared some details about the operations and the equipment the organisation uses, during Thursday’s technical briefing. One of the most recent developments is the replacement of the Super RHIB fast boats with Metal Shark fast interceptors. The 12 Metal Sharks will be divided among the Coast Guard stations. The first batch is already in Curaçao, to be followed soon by a second batch for Aruba. The third batch will arrive in St. Maarten by the end of this year.
Unlike the Leeward Islands Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, the Windward Islands do not have a permanent coastal radar system. This system should be acquired for the Windward Islands in a few years. Until that time, there will be a mobile radar system, also in light of strengthening St. Maarten’s border control.
“We hope to close the gap with the mobile system until the permanent coastal radar is installed,” said De Vin.
Bron: Daily Herald