By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE first of nine new Royal Bahamas Defence Force vessels will make its maiden voyage next month, National Security Minister Dr Bernard Nottage said yesterday.
Construction of the vessels are on time and consistent, according to Dr Nottage, who confirmed that two more 138ft vessels will make the voyage across the Atlantic to the Bahamas before the end of this year.
The first vessel, the Damen Roll-on Roll-off Landing Craft to be named HMBS Arthur Dion Hanna, in honour of the former Governor General, has already completed sea trials.
Dr Nottage, accompanied by RBDF Commodore Roderick Bowe, travelled to Amsterdam to review progress of the project and inspected three of the ships said to be in an advanced stage of completion.
He spoke to the press upon his return from London at a press conference held at the Lynden Pindling International Airport.
Dr Nottage said he and his team also had the opportunity to meet with Van Oord, the dredging company engaged to expand three ports to accommodate the new vessels.
The company has not yet started dredging operations, according to Dr Nottage, who said discussions focused on efficiency, timeliness, and costs for the project that is expected to start late next year.
A team of 14 officers are presently stationed in Amsterdam to be trained to operate the new modern fleet, according to Commodore Bowe, who added that Jamaica’s defence force has also agreed to assist with the officers’ training.
The government is also purchasing four Damen Stan Patrol 4201 vessels – 138 feet long with an eight foot draft; four Damen Stan Patrol 3007 vessels – 98 feet wide with a 6.5 foot draft; and nine Rigid Inflatable Boats.
The Christie administration tabled a resolution to borrow $232 million for the purchase last month.
The loan from Deutsche Bank will provide $149 million to build each of the ships, and an extra $75 million to cover civil works for a total of $224 million.
The remaining $8 million will accommodate any changes that might arise during the scope of the project.