By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE Government’s move to bolster the Royal Bahamas Defence Force’s (RBDF) fleet by purchasing nine new vessels was yesterday described yesterday as a “bright light” for Bahamian fishermen in the long-running fight against illegal poaching.
“I am extremely happy about the new boats. It’s welcomed news for Bahamian fishermen,” said Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance (BCFA) president, Adrian LaRoda.
“While we tend to concentrate on the assets, I would also like to see in the short term the compensation for RBDF officers. There is concern over officers’ morale and there is an obvious need for an increase in the staff complement. The Defence Force certainly has our support. We need to combat this illegal poaching problem.”
The Christie administration yesterday tabled a House of Assembly resolution to borrow $232 million for the purchase of nine new Royal Bahamas Defence Force vessels. 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 may arise during the scope of the project.
Mr LaRoda said the Defence Force did not patrol Bahamian waters consistently enough. “I’m sure that’s where the addition to their fleet would help. The vessels need to be properly deployed. Having boats, but not having them properly deployed, will not solve the problem,” he added.
The government is purchasing four Damen Stan Patrol 4201 vessels – 138 feet long with an eight feet draft; four Damen Stan Patrol 3007 vessels – 98 feet wide with a 6.5 feet draft; and nine Rigid Inflatable Boats.
One Damen Roll-on Roll-off Landing Craft, to be named HMBS Arthur Dion Hanna, in honour of the former Governor General, is also to be constructed. This vessel will be fitted with a 25-ton crane and demountable disaster relief equipment. It is expected to make its maiden voyage in Bahamian waters on June 13, 2014. Last March, the Government announced the signing of a letter of intent with Damen Shipyards to acquire the vessels.