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Our Shores are Adequately Patrolled
Posted: Tuesday, August 23, 2005

by Stephen Kangal

The Commanding Officer of the T&T Coast Guard must allay the fears of the population in the face of a serious but unfounded allegation made by UWI Principal, Dr. B. Tewarie at the 30 July Principles of Fairness Conference. The Principal alleged, inter alia, that "our shores are unmonitored" (UWI Today, Sunday Guardian Aug. 21, p. 4). The Principal also stated that our police service and the judiciary had collapsed. But I leave the defence of the latter two to the Police Commissioner and the Honourable Chief Justice.

The Principal really wanted to insinuate that our shores were "porous"- one of many criteria applied by President Bush/ US State Department under the National Security Strategy (NSS) No. 116 to assess and classify his pet subject- failed states.

A porous coastal frontier is one through which, inter alia, international terrorists, revolutionaries and illicit drug operatives can easily penetrate with such ease and rapidity that they are undetected.

T&T is a small island developing coastal state. Its exercises maritime jurisdiction and control over an extensive marine area that is approximately 20 times bigger than its 2,000 square miles of land territory. It depends almost exclusively on its terrorist-vulnerable offshore production facilities for almost all its gas (18 tcf of proven reserves) and 90% of its oil supply of 225,000 bpd. T&Tís geo-strategic location makes it an ideal transshipment point for the illicit drug trade originating out of Colombia. The result is that the US Drug Administration/State Department has been assisting the T&TCG to beef up, modernize and extend the range of its patrol and surveillance drug interdiction capability.

While the main Coast Guard Station is located at Staubleís Bay additional patrol and surveillance units are now based at Cedros, Guayaguayare and at Scarborough, Tobago.

There is the international recognition of the extended maritime capability of our Coast Guard. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) based in London assigned T&T with primary maritime search and rescue and ship-generated oil pollution monitoring/clean up responsibilities over a maritime area that extends to St.Vincent and Barbados to the north.

Readers will also recall that PM Manning has been boasting publicly about the expansive range of the Israeli-supplied 360 degrees spying technology including the Blimp that can see beyond Barbados and in the Orinoco as well.

The US market depends on our LNG for 77% of its strategic supplies. With increasing US Direct Foreign Investment in T&T maritime security of our terrorist-vulnerable off-shore platforms will have been upgraded post 9/11 including the use of remote sensing orbiting satellites on a daily basis.

Several cooperation agreements have also been concluded with the Venezuelans to undertake joint patrols in the Gulf of Paria and to share sensitive intelligence.

Accordingly it is my conviction that the shores of our 23 islands are adequately monitored, patrolled and defended using a range of highly sophisticated modern equipment and manned by our highly trained T&TCG militia. Can we avoid being unnecessarily alarmist prophets of gloom and doom by stoking the fires of existing levels of fear and thereby reduce investor confidence?

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