Regiment Boat Troop will patrol Island’s waters
A full time Regiment Boat Troop is being developed, National Security Minister Wayne Perinchief told the House of Assembly yesterday.
Once fully operational, its soldiers would have powers to board and search, carry non-lethal weapons and to make arrests.
“It is intended that the Regiment take on a more formal inshore maritime security role, using a full-time force,” said Mr Perinchief.
“The Regiment would recruit, train and deploy a full-time Boat Troop to take over the routine inshore maritime patrolling task of the Bermuda Police Service.
“In the interests of efficiency, it is not intended that this be a “quick-fix”. The Regiment already has strong links with the US Coastguard, Canadian Maritime Police, and the Royal Marines who can assist with training, however, it will take time to recruit and train the necessary personnel.”
The Minister noted that the Regiment currently provides maritime support to the BPS on a part-time basis during boat season.
Raising a full-time Regiment boat troop would cost the taxpayer 25 percent more but some $500,000 — $700,000 less than employing the equivalent number of police officers, he told the House.
“Whilst the initial outlay to raise, equip and train the force is significant, the long-term costs favour the Regiment. Additionally, the BPS officers freed from maritime duties can be redeployed according to the Commissioner’s requests in addressing crime in the community.”
Mr Perinchief added: “For maximum effectiveness, this venture would need to be a joint force and the Regiment will need to rely on the expertise of the Police, Customs, Border Control, and Marine and Ports for advice and operational support. An ‘Operations Centre’ headed by the agreed ‘lead agency’ would need to be identified, and regular, formalised inter-agency briefing and intelligence sharing would be required.”
The Minister explained that the Regiment boat troop will have the capability to conduct routine inshore patrolling, provide 24-hour standby search and rescue assistance, interdict drugs and weapons and conduct maritime safety checks of civilian craft.
It will also be able to patrol and police major maritime events, work with the Fisheries department on fisheries inspection and contribute to joint operations with other agencies such as Customs, BPS, the Fire Service and the Department of Fisheries.
“In due course, as funding is available, the Regiment could look to broaden this capability to include offshore search and rescue, board and search, and weapon and drug interdiction, and a full-time Operational Support Unit that would be specially trained in boarding and search techniques, in addition to providing an immediate reserve to the Police Support Unit in the event of a public disorder situation,” Mr Perinchief added.
“A uniformed, disciplined force dedicated to protecting the inshore waters is a clear demonstration of the Government’s commitment to protect those who use the waterways, while at the same time strengthening drug and gun interdiction capabilities. A ‘coastguard’ styled organisation such as this is widely accepted in other similar jurisdictions and should present few issues for Bermuda.”
At question time, Mr Perinchief confirmed that new legislation would be required to give the boat troop extra powers to board, search, arrest and carry non lethal weapons, but he said that would not be required in the initial stages when they would be assisting the other agencies.
He indicated that implementation was in two phases — the first of which started last year with a joint operation between the Regiment and the police to deal with “unseemly activity by gangs on the water”.
But, following a further question from Opposition MP Grant Gibbons, he said that the full implementation would only be funded in the next financial year.
And the Minister said that it was anticipated that full time personnel would be used, not conscripts or volunteers.
Regiment Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Brian Gonsalves described the prospect of a Regiment boat troop as a “win-win-win” situation.
He said it would achieve the Regiment’s aim of increasing its full time “footprint” which would have the advantage of providing more jobs for Bermudians and “another career option” for those wanting to enter the security services field, besides costing the taxpayer a little less.
He could not say how many extra soldiers would have to be recruited for the boat troop as the detailed planning has not yet been done.
Police Commissioner Michael DeSilva said: “The concept of an emerging maritime role for the Bermuda Regiment is still new and it would be difficult to predict too far into the future as to what that might eventually look like for the police.
“Certainly the police are pleased to have been partners on the water for the last two years and the public have been the beneficiaries of increased marine patrols. We are looking forward to another successful joint venture this summer and we will support the Minister’s considerations of expanding the Regiment’s functions in this area.”