Rebuilding of St. Maarten Coast Guard station soon


THE HAGUE–Reconstruction of the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard station in St. Maarten will commence shortly and be completed before the start of the new hurricane season.

Dutch Minister of Defence Ank Bijleveld-Schouten stated this in the answers she recently provided to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament in response to 26 written questions regarding the 2018 Annual Plan of the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard.
One of the questions related to St. Maarten and the damage to the Coast Guard facilities by Hurricane Irma. The Second Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Defence specifically asked whether the damage to the facilities in St. Maarten had already been repaired, when the Coast Guard station would be fully operational again, and how much the hurricane damage was.

The Minister said she could not give a figure of the damage as yet, but explained that the repair works to the infrastructure of the Coast Guard station in St. Maarten should start soon so they can be completed before the start of the hurricane season in June.
The loss of two SuperRHIB go-fast vessels during the hurricane in St. Maarten has affected the number of available vessels for Aruba and Curaçao. The Coast Guard operations in Aruba and Curaçao each had to permanently hand over one of their three SuperRHIB boats to St. Maarten. In the course of 2018, the SuperRHIBs will be replaced by Metal Shark vessels, which will bring the fleet of so-called fast interceptors up to level again.

The Committee for Defence also inquired about the cooperation with France in St. Maarten and how this collaboration could be made more effective. The Minister noted that the cooperation with France in St. Maarten could be improved through an adaptation of the existing operational protocol.

Bijleveld-Schouten explained that under the current protocol, for example, St. Maarten authorities, including the Coast Guard, have to request permission 24 hours in advance to operate in French territorial waters. “This is not always possible in the case of a pursuit, for example,” she said.

She assured that the Coast Guard and Defence would remain actively involved to improve relations, both in bilateral contacts with French authorities in the Caribbean and in the diplomatic channels from the Netherlands. Cooperation between the French and Dutch sides regarding border-crossing matters will begin shortly.

Asked about general cooperation within the Kingdom, Bijleveld-Schouten said the fact that the Coast Guard structure involved four countries sometimes meant that priorities had to be set. “This requires further tuning because the Coast Guard has its limitations financially and in capacity.” Consultation takes place in the regular meetings between the four countries.

The Second Chamber also inquired about the possibilities of establishing round-the-clock deployment of the Coast Guard in Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten in cooperation with the other departments in the justice system.

The Minister explained that an assessment was currently taking place to see how this could be achieved through the constant combining of teams of multiple disciplines. “With the Coast Guard’s current formation capacity, a 24/7 deployment can only be achieved in close cooperation with the partners in the justice system by combining a crew of the fast interceptors from the Coast Guard, police and Customs,” she stated.

The Coast Guard seized 1,502 kilos of illegal drugs and confiscated 20 firearms in 2017, including a large amount of ammunition and two hand grenades. A total of 326 undocumented persons who had tried to enter the Dutch Caribbean islands illegally were arrested.

As for the assumption of the Venezuela Government that large quantities of precious metals and minerals were being smuggled to the islands, the Minister clarified by stating the Coast Guard had not encountered gold, diamonds or minerals during the controls at sea.

However, there has been an increase in the smuggling of fuel from Venezuela, mostly to Aruba and Curaçao. Also, an increasing number of weapons and more drugs were found on board vessels holding undocumented persons from Venezuela.
The Minister said cooperation with the Venezuela Coast Guard was still good. Patrols are coordinated with the Venezuela Coast Guard.

Source: The Daily Herald