The Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Coast Guard is the naval arm of the Force. The JDF Coast Guard is tasked with the maintenance of law and order in Jamaica’s maritime domain. This domain is approximately 240,000sq km or approximately twenty five times the size of the mainland. Two of the missions executed by the Coast Guard are maritime safety and maritime law enforcement. Maritime safety involves search and rescue, pleasure craft inspections, response to oil spills and other hazardous substances. Maritime law missions include fisheries protection, drug interdiction, and customs and immigration.With budget allocation for the JDF being at 0.6 percent of GDP (2007), the Coast Guard does not have the luxury of assorted inshore and offshore patrol vessels at its disposal, that can accomplish all its missions. Therefore, in my opinion, they need to make do with a single type of vessel that's versatile enough to do both inshore and offshore patrol, search and rescue, and drug interdiction etc. And to accomplish all of that, it is essential that the chosen boat has amphibious landing capability. I don't know what capabilities the JDF was looking for in a mission critical platform, but the Combat Boat 90 (CB90) should have been the preferred choice. Let's compare the capabilities:
|JDF Coast Guard (Stan Patrol 4207) County class offshore patrol vessels.|
The number 1 challenge to the JDF Coast Guard is to interdict suspected Go-fast drug boats speeding away on the high seas. Can the Stan Patrol 4207 which travels at up to 30 knots, chase down, out-maneuver and stop a Go-fast boat that travels at up to 80 knots and beyond? Would the CB90, at speeds of up to 45 knots, and superior maneuvering capability, not provide a better challenge in this cat-and-mouse game of high-speed chase? If the bandits cannot out-maneuver a fast attack CB90 supported by a JDF Air Wing helicopter and decided to crash on the beach to try to escape on foot, the CB90 could also land on the beach to deploy Coast Guard commandos to give chase, and that would be a dead-end for the bandits. But currently with the Stan Patrol 4207s and other inshore patrol boats in the Coast Guard's inventory, this amphibious landing capability is missing and leaves a major gap in their maritime law enforcement capability. The drug-runners on the high seas know they have the upper hand and it's open season. That's the long and short of it. Now, let's look at a search and rescue scenario:
|Combat Boat 90 configured as a fast attack vessel and as a sea ambulance (inset).|
American Airlines flight 331 crashed and broke in three, after landing at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston, Jamaica, on Tuesday, December 22, 2009. The plane on landing, failed to stop and overshot the runway, crashed through a perimeter fence, went across the Norman Manley highway, and then halted a few meters from the Kingston Harbour (shown in the picture below). Now, can you imagine a worse case scenario with the plane crashing into the water and partially submerging before the passengers could escape? What search and rescue effort could the Coast Guard have mounted with the Stan Patrol 4207 and a handful of other inshore vessels? They would have needed sea ambulances at the ready to provide life-support for the unconscious, and a means to quickly transfer the victims to ambulances arriving on the beach. Would the CB90 configured as an ambulance (shown in the inset picture above) not have provided a better platform for this critical mission, in both deep and shallow waters, than the Stan Patrol 4207? Yes, it would. Coast Guard divers with CB90 sea ambulances at the scene would've been the greatest hope for the passengers and crew. Otherwise, all would have perished. And, it is important to note, that no seaborne emergency crew arrived at the crash scene of flight 331. Neither Coast Guard nor Marine Police appeared along the coastline to offer assistance and secure the area. If I am wrong, I stand to be corrected, but you'd be hard pressed to find a photo showing a JDF Coast Guard or a Marine Police vessel within close proximity of that crash.
|American Airlines flight 331 overshoots runway at Norman Manley Intl Airport, Kingston.|
|Middle Cay at Pedro Bank. Located about 80 km south and southwest of Jamaica.|
One more thing. Shown in the last photo above is one of the four cays that make up the Pedro Cays, in the Pedro Bank area that is very important to the Jamaican fishing industry. It is inhabited by a fishing village and a Coast Guard Station, that has no pier to accommodate a Stan Patrol 4207. For policing the area and providing general assistance to the fisher folks, the CB90 is once again more suitable for those shallow waters. No need for sailors to disembark from a HMJS Middlesex unto a smaller boat, and then jump off into the water to come ashore. JDF, do the right thing.
When next you go shopping for a Coast Guard vessel, choose a versatile platform with (1) amphibious landing capability that can accomplish rapid insertion of security agents anywhere along the Jamaican coastline; (2) speed that can match the Go-fast drug boats in a high-speed chase; (3) can be reconfigured as an ambulance for search and rescue and the rapid transfer of badly injured victims to ambulances on the beach; and (4) patrol our river ways such as the Black River and others, if needs be. No Jamaican territory should be inaccessible to our security agents and search and rescue teams, because they lack the right equipment.