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Trinidad & Tobago Coast Guard

The Coast Guard is an arm of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force, which falls under the authority of the Ministry of National Security. The mission of the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard is "to defend the sovereign good of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and to provide, on a continuous basis, quality service for security and safety within its maritime boundaries and in any other area of responsibility agreed to by the state to fulfil its international obligation." Members of the Coast Guard team play a key role in supporting this mission.

The coast guard, which was the naval arm of the Defence Force, had about 580 personnel and 13 patrol craft in 1986. The larger naval vessels included two 200-ton Swedish patrol vessels and four 100-ton Swedish Vosper patrol craft. In late 1986, four coast guard vessels were said to be inoperable, and three of the five customs and excise launches were reported to be down, with repairs delayed indefinitely because of lack of funds. At the same time, there were reports of large-scale arms smuggling into Trinidad and Tobago from Grenada, Barbados, Venezuela, Colombia, and the United States.

National Roles of the Coast Guard

  • Surveillance of the Waters under T & T Jurisdiction
  • Logistical Support to T & T Land Forces
  • Port Security (ISPS Code)
  • Assistance in Scientific Research
  • Aid to Civil Law Enforcement
  • Anti-Smuggling / Counter-Narcotic Operations (MOF)
  • Fisheries Protection and Enforcement (MAL&MR)
  • Pollution Surveillance and Enforcement (MPU&E)
  • Safety of Shipping (MOW&T)

Operational Tasks

  • Keeping surveillance of the nation's off-shore installations
  • Environmental protection, minor salvage and local maritime surveys
  • Cooperating with other naval forces.

T&T is deeply interested in improving its maritime security capabilities. Largely, this would mean increasing patrol capability to interdict narcotics and other illicit materials while they remain off the coast. T&T is seven miles off the coast of Venezuela, with a long coastline that includes a number of secluded bays and coves. The Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard generally worked well with other law enforcement entities to pursue traffickers, but no agency has enough resources to effectively interdict all illicit items. Further complicating the effort is the lack of a clear delineation of responsibilities; it is often unclear which agency is responsible for making an arrest when a boat enters the waters, then crosses into the river system and lands.

There have been incidents of piracy in the waters between T&T and Venezuela in which vessels were boarded and the occupants assaulted, robbed, and in some cases murdered. While the majority of incidents have involved local fishermen, there is a small community of private boat owners who stay in Trinidad temporarily during the hurricane season that have also been affected.

Counter human trafficking remains paramount in the efforts of the TTCG as well. Constant patrols and always watchful eyes for such activities are entrenched in the Coast Guard's membership. The Coast Guard remains the Search and Rescue Coordination Centre for the Southern Caribbean working jointly with Puerto Rico and Venezuela to effect well coordinated searches for missing persons and vessels. In the sphere of disaster relief efforts, the T&T Coast Guard is a primary facilitator for providing service to the Southern Caribbean, Coast Guard's new assets CG 23, TTS Point Lisas an CG 24, TTS Brighton provided relief supplies and equipment for Dominica after a hurricane struck the island.

Additionally, the Coast Guard's functions include, fisheries protection; assisting in scientific research; environmental protection; protection of our offshore installations; protection against piracy and robbery at sea; Ensuring the protection of our commercial sea lanes and provision of medical evacuations (Medi-Vac) from ship to shore. Additionally, the Coast Guard's inter-agency scope, includes working with the T&T Police Service, Customs and Excise Division, Immigration Division, Fisheries Division (Tobago), the Environmental Management Authority, Institute of Marine Affairs and security of Trinidad and Tobago Maritime ports.

The Coast Guard planned to acquire three Offshore Patrol Vessels; The Port of Spain class corvette, which have been built by BAE Systems Surface Ships in the United Kingdom. However, in September 2010, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago announced it was cancelling the order. On 29 April 2015 the Ministry of National Security contracted with Dutch company Damen Shipbuilders for four 51-metre 28-knot coastal patrol vessels, two 54-metre fast utility boats and six 11-metre 53-knot interceptors.

Following a 4-year acquisition programme, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago has agreed to purchase twelve vessels for the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force from Damen Shipyards. The Signing Ceremony, which took place at the Ministry of National Security, Temple Court 1 Building, was attended by Permanent Secretary Carl A. Francis on behalf of the Ministry of National Security and Damen Sales Director Americas Sander van Oord. Trinidad and Tobago ordered a complete package of vessels with the aim of enhancing the country’s maritime security and of establishing the foundations of a Maritime Security Wall; thereby creating and sustaining an effective presence in all tiers of Trinidad and Tobago’s maritime domain.

The order includes:

  • Four Damen Stan Patrol 5009 Coastal Patrol Vessels - 51 metres long, 9 metres wide - Uses a unique Sea-Axe design to dramatically enhance seakeeping in rough waters. These vessels will patrol coastal waters and are also capable of operating in Trinidad and Tobago’s Exclusive Economic Zone
  • Two Damen Fast Crew Supply 5009 Utility Vessels - 54 metres long, 10 metres wide - These vessels can be used for a variety of roles: support of interceptor operations, disaster relief, search and rescue, as well as limited coastal patrol
  • Six Damen Interceptor DI 1102 Interceptors - 11 metres long, 2 metres wide - Interceptors are capable of being embarked on and deployed from the SPas and FCS acting as a force multiplier

Since 1927, Damen has built a significant number of high quality vessels for civil and military purposes. Such vessels are in service with the Coast Guards of the United States, Canada, Mexico, Bahamas, Jamaica, Barbados and the Netherlands among others. Damen Sales Director Americas Sander Van Oord, said: “Damen is a company that prides itself on the quality and performance of the ships we build. We are delighted to welcome the Government of Trinidad & Tobago to our family and will strive to deliver this package on time and within budget. These are the hallmarks of Damen that have helped us become market leader in the Caribbean.”

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Page last modified: 23-05-2017 15:48:43 ZULU