Border security boost
Japan hands over first of six vessels to strengthen maritime protection
The Japanese government has donated a marine vessel to Jamaica to help strengthen the island’s capacity to police its borders.
The vessel, which was donated through Japan’s grant aid programme, was handed over in a ceremony at Marine Police headquarters at Newport East in Kingston on Wednesday
It is one of six to be donated under the $420-million grant. The other five patrol boats, which will arrive in the island later this year, will be divided between the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF).
Speaking at the event as the JCF accepted the first vessel, Police Commissioner Antony Anderson noted the significant role which the Marine Police plays in border management and protection alongside the Jamaica Customs Agency and the Jamaica Defence Force Coast Guard.
He added that the rigid hull inflatable boat helps cops tackle the issues of smuggling and the infiltration of the country’s borders, an issue that Jamaica continues to grapple with.
Anderson said the police would continue to work with the Coast Guard in the maritime space as they monitor the 145 informal ports across the country.
“At the same time, we’re an economy that’s very reliant on tourists, and part of that tourism product is our sea and our beaches,” Anderson said, adding that the Marine Police will also ensure the safety of locals, tourists, and businesses along the shoreline.
Superintendent Robert Walker of the Marine Police told The Gleaner that the new vessel would particularly be useful in shallow-water operations and in small and hard-to-reach spaces such as the Cabarita River in Westmoreland.
“We [don’t] only focus on the big sea because things can happen from the land into the sea,” he said.
Walker added that there while there was a concern about human trafficking, cops were also keen on combating the trafficking of animals as such activity could cause foreign diseases to enter the island.
“If you see a piece a meat a come in ..., we haffi be careful because you have disease weh will come in. They will wipe out all your animal stock,” he warned about the illegal activities, noting that there were also hotspots of criminality in the waters, similar to on land.
Junior National Security Minister Zavia Mayne noted that since Jamaica is faced with several maritime security vulnerabilities, partnerships such as one with the Japanese government would help to tackle issues of transnational crimes, including drugs and weapons trafficking.
For his part, Matoshi Akimoto, parliamentary vice minister of foreign affairs in Japan, also expressed confidence that the vessel would assist the JCF to strengthen its security capabilities in areas such as detection of offshore criminal activity and in rescue operations.
As 2024 will mark 60 years of diplomatic relations between Jamaica and Japan, Akimoto is looking forward to strengthening the bond between both nations.