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Colombia - Navy (Armada República de Colombia [ARC])

Over the last five decades, Colombia has gone through an internal conflict fed by illegal drug trade and other transnational crimes. This situation made it compulsory for security forces, including the Navy, to modify their competences in order to defeat drug trafficking terrorist organizations.

Colombia is the only South American country that has two coasts, one in the Caribbean Sea and one in the Pacific, and 97% of its total trade relies on maritime transportation. Colombia is a country with more than 2,000 kilometres of coastline on their Caribbean and Pacific coastlines, and also has hundreds of Islands. Colombia's river network has an extension of 24,725km, 15,000km of them navigable. Hence, the responsibility of the Navy in this context is to protect and safeguard those who contribute to the use of seas and rivers.

By 1970s the small Colombian navy of 7,100 men had only limited surveillance and control capabilities in nearby waters. Its major units were three destroyers and one high speed transport. The navy also had five MAP-supported gunboats capable of limited internal security and civic action work. The Marine battalion was capable of counter-insurgency operations or of assisting the police in riot control in coastal cities.

In 2008 the National Navy (Armada Nacional) had a total of 30,729 personnel, plus about 14,000 marines and 146 naval aviation personnel. In 1988 the National Navy had about 10,600 personnel, including approximately 5,000 marines, 1,500 coast guard personnel, and 500 conscripts. Personnel under the command of the National Navy represented 12 percent of the country's total military forces. Naval reserve personnel in 1988 were estimated at 15,000.

Naval headquarters are in Bogotá. The country's principal naval base is at Cartagena. In addition, the navy maintained a minor base at Barranquilla, the site of one of Colombia's shipworks. In 1988 a new naval base was reported to have been completed at Bahía de Málaga.

The navy operated in three naval forces and four commands. The naval forces are the Caribbean Naval Force, with its headquarters at Cartagena; the Pacific Naval Force, with headquarters at Buenaventura; and the Southern Naval Force. The latter consists of the Southern River Fleet, which controls and guards the Caquetá and Putumayo rivers. The first of the four commands is the Marine Infantry Command, which operates on land along the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, on the island territories, and on the country’s rivers, where its amphibious capabilities can support the naval forces as needed. The second command is the Coast Guard Corps Command, which operates two task forces, one along the Caribbean coast and one along the Pacific coast. The third is the Naval Aviation Command, which is equipped with some small airplanes and helicopters. The fourth is the Specific Command (Comando Específico) of San Andrés and Providencia; it consists of the General Headquarters of the Specific Command, Naval Base No. 4, and a unit attached to the Caribbean Naval Force.

In 1979 the navy organized the small Coast Guard Corps (Cuerpo de Guardacosta) to carry out coastal patrol duties and operate some aircraft. In 1988 a naval air arm was being established to reduce the service's dependence on air force support. Although the navy has maintained its traditional mission of defending the nation’s maritime waters, the evolution of the internal conflict during the 1990s also led to the development of new objectives. The navy not only participates in antinarcotics activities through the detection and interception of boats suspected of drug trafficking, but its Marine Infantry Command also became directly involved in the counterinsurgent effort through a buildup on the nation’s coastal and internal waterways. The navy also has two Gaula units.

The two task forces of the Coast Guard Corps Command operate on the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. The Caribbean task force, under the command of the Caribbean Naval Force, maintains five stations based in La Guajira, Santa Marta, Cartagena, Coveñas, and Turbo. The Pacific task force is under the operational authority of the Pacific Naval Force and maintains stations in Buenaventura and Tumaco. An eighth Coast Guard station is located in Leticia on the Amazon. The Naval Aviation Command conducts logistical support missions for the navy.

The commander of the navy is assisted by a chief of naval operations and an inspector general. The Marine Infantry Command and seven headquarters (jefaturas) report directly to the navy’s deputy commander. Naval Education oversees the Enap, the Naval School for Noncommissioned Officers (ENSB), and the Marine Infantry School (EFIM). Logistics Operations is responsible for the four largest naval bases, in Cartagena, San Andrés, Málaga, and Puerto Leguízamo on the Río Putumayo. Naval Operations commands the Caribbean Naval Force, the Pacific Naval Force, the Southern Naval Force, the Coast Guard Corps Command, and the Naval Aviation Command. Other jefaturas include Plan Orion, naval intelligence, naval matériel, and human development.

The navy’s General Maritime Directorate is responsible for Colombia’s maritime policies and programs, the Merchant Marine, and maritime signals. It also manages port authority for ship registration and titles and the development of research and maritime cartography. The Corporation for Science and Technology for the Development of the Naval, Maritime, and Riverine Industry is in charge of the shipyards in Mamonal and Boca Grande, near Cartagena. This entity is responsible for the design and construction of the Coast Guard’s fast patrol craft and riverine supply vessels.

The first Commander of Flotilla Fluvial del Oriente, Commander Carlos Arias Palacios, and the engineer of the Force Commander Andres Bermudez, undertaken since the second half of 2012 the great task to plan, organize and the implementation of what is now the Flotilla, reaching the goal of putting into operation 80% of the units afloat; thus achieving greater sustainability support of military operations carried out in the region of the Orinoco and become a fundamental pillar of the Naval Force of the East.

Fluvial Flotilla of the East had 12 units assigned by Resolution No. 366 of the Navy Command of May 7, 2013, among which are two patrol boats Fluvial Support (ARC "SSIM Julio Correa Hernandez" and ARC " SSIM Manuel Antonio Moyar "), two boats River (ARC" Avenger "and ARC" Diligent "), an Tug River (ARC" Rigoberto Giraldo "), four patrol boats Rapid River (ARC" PRF 305 "- EX ARC" Tenerife "ARC" PRF 307 "- EX ARC" Mompox "ARC" PRF 308 "- EX ARC" Orocue "and ARC" PRF 310 "- EX ARC" Magangué "), a river tugboat (ARC" Manacacías "), a patrol boat Fluvial Liviana (ARC "Inírida") and a patrol boat Support Fluvial Liviana (ARC "Harrys Tous"), which were strategically located to facilitate development, joint, coordinated and combined own operations in order to guarantee the sovereignty and river control in rivers neutralizing use by armed groups outside the law and / or criminal gangs working for drug traffickers.

On 22 July 2013, the President of the Republic, Juan Manuel Santos Calderon, established the East Fleet; a unit that will strengthen the presence of the Navy and contribute to the security of the inhabitants of the departments of Arauca, Casanare, Meta, Vichada and Guainia. Navigable rivers of the basins of the Orinoco, Arauca, Meta, Vichada, Tomo, Vita, part of Guaviare, Inirida and other minor tributaries like the Manacacias river and Metica, will be the scene of this new unit, which constitutes the Fourth Naval force in the country, followed by the Naval force of the Caribbean, the Pacific and the Southern Naval force.

East Naval Force, under the command of Admiral Sir Hector Alfonso Medina Torres, had the Marine Brigade No.5, formed by the Fluvial Battalions located in Inirida, Arauca Puerto Carreño and the Naval Base # 5. ARC "Orinoquia" Fluvial Flotilla of the East, with 12 units afloat 12 elements and 7 Fluvial Combat Heavy Combat Livianos Fluvial elements as well as 5 and 7 Fluviales Posts Advanced Mobile Support Fluvial stations.

There were about 1,800 men and women who had been assigned to this new unit of the Navy, to combat all forms of crime and acts against the stability of the inhabitants of 60 coastal municipalities, with a population of two million inhabitants, who live along the 5,032 kilometers of navigable rivers in the east, of which 1,320 km are border with Venezuela and Brazil.

This unit completed its modernization in June 2012, with the mission to guarantee the sovereignty of Colombia in the areas of fluvial responsibility assigned to the Naval Force of the East through the development of River Operations, Joint, coordinated and combined operations, which allow exercise river control in rivers and deny its use to the enemy. Also, to ensure free navigation of Colombians major river arteries of the east of the country; strengthen the ties of friendship with neighboring countries by conducting international operations and humanitarian support in the border areas, making homeland and exercising sovereignty.

The National Development Plan highlights the economic, social, cultural, environmental, natural resources and the policy side of the Orinoco region, a region that contemplates a future of progress and development. That is why the Navy seeks to strengthen its coverage and establish a level of strategic naval direction by its positioning in eastern Colombia, thus contributing to the implementation of institutional plans, state programs and strengthening international relations, by applying effective border policy development.

This border development is given by the dynamic integration processes and regional and national developments to strengthening border security, the promotion and development of the territory through combined operations in common rivers. With this new National Armed Forces Naval affirms its commitment to the security of the country and will decisively ahead of offensive operations in order to neutralize the illegal structures that offend in the Colombian East.

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