Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Colombia govt tries to woo T&T into buying patrol vessel


TO FIGHT THE DRUG TRADE: The Colombian naval vessel ARC 20 De Julio docked at the Cruise Ship Complex on Wrightson, Road, Port of Spain on Wednesday. —Photo: ISHMAEL SALANDY

Mark Fraser

THE Colombian government is seeking to woo this country into purchasing a long range patrol vessel in an effort to assist the country, and the region by extension, to fight the drug trade.

During a media tour of the vessel, which docked at the Cruise Ship Complex, in Port of Spain on Wednesday Vice-Minister of Defence for Colombia Yaneth Giha said the visit is to “confirm our interest in co-operating with the country”. 

Giha said Colombia has gained a lot of knowledge and training in the past years and is now seeking to co-operate with the rest of the region in the war against transnational crime, specifically illegal drug trafficking.

“We feel that the region requires a more specialised approach to the phenomenon that we are living. With this long range patrol vessel we want to show that we are ready to co-operate with the region” Giha said.

Colombia is regarded as the world’s leader in the production of cocaine and Trinidad and Tobago is regarded as a key transshipment point for the illegal narcotics to get to the United States and Europe.

Giha said that local law enforcement have received training in maritime interdiction in Cartagena for the last five years and is now working on a broader plan to train special forces team to also include aerial interdiction. 

“If Trinidad is interested in this vessel then we are ready but the most important thing is that Colombia is ready to show the capabilities to show how to use it. To show operationally speaking you can really win this war (on drugs),” Giha said.

Giha said the vessel, which was handed over to the Colombian Navy in 2011 after being built with both Chilean and Colombian input had intercepted 954 kilogrammes of cocaine in its first mission.

Asked what was the cost of the vessel Giha said she could  not give a figure as that is “always difficult” but added that it cost “several million dollars”.

The vessel, which is equipped with a helicopter and an interceptor capable of a top speed of 55 knots (101.860 kilometres per hour), can stay out at sea for a maximum of 55 days before it needed to be re-fuelled.