Coastguard to patrol waters non-stop
A coastguard will start policing island waters around the clock by next summer.
Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, said a special unit of the Royal Bermuda Regiment would deliver “a greater sense of security in Bermuda’s maritime area and safer inshore maritime operations by trade and pleasure craft”.
The unit, with an estimated annual cost of $1.67 million, will take over police maritime powers in the spring of 2019 to allow its 14 full-time members to be trained and certified in time for summer.
Mr Caines told the House of Assembly on Friday that the 2017 Throne Speech pledge for soldiers to take over the policing of inshore waters had become “another promise kept”.
Soldiers’ powers will include stopping and searching any vessel in Bermuda’s territorial waters.
The island’s “territorial sea” extends 12 nautical miles or 13.8 miles from the limits of the reef line, and covers 1,566 square miles.
Soldiers have supported the Bermuda Police Service for years, but lacked the policing powers to enforce maritime law.
One Bermuda Alliance MP Craig Cannonier backed the legislation and said better security was “badly needed on our waters”.
Mr Cannonier added that the island’s radar surveillance extended as far as 70 miles “on a good day” but had “huge gaps where the radar does not pick up anything”.
He warned: “You could sail into Bermuda without being detected at all.”
Mr Cannonier said: “The establishment of this coastguard unit is extremely important to our safety, it is extremely important to our security.”
He added that he would like to see forums held to provide the public with information on the role of the new unit.
Cole Simons, also of the OBA, said that he would like to see the responsibilities of the coastguard extended to include environmental work.
Ms Simons added that the new unit “can play a proactive role in monitoring and bringing to the attention of the powers that be” any environmental-related problems.
Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, said that many had spoken about the career opportunities for men that would be created by the coastguard.
Ms Wilson added: “I would certainly also like to encourage women to utilise this as a particular avenue for joining the Regiment.”
She said that she knew many women with the skill sets needed for coastguard duties.
Trevor Moniz, the Shadow Attorney-General, highlighted incidents that had happened on the water over the Cup Match weekend. He said: “So we obviously do need more policing on the water.”
Michael Scott, a PLP backbencher, said the creation of a coastguard unit was “a significant development in our history”.
He added: “This Bill has begun to address the specific, tailored needs of our country.”
Jeanne Atherden, Leader of the Opposition, said the creation of Bermuda’s coastguard had been “a long time coming”.
Ms Atherden said: “I’m really pleased to see this and obviously it’s very much appropriate.”
She added that she would be watching “with great interest” to see how staffing levels would reflect the duties carried out by the coastguard.
Ms Atherden said that many Bermudians would be interested in getting involved in the new unit.
She added: “At the same time, maybe it will start making all of us more responsible on the water.”
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