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Trinidad Commissions Long-Range Vessels From China to Secure Borders

china trinidadPORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday announced this country will be seeking to purchase a long-range vessel (LRV) from China “in the shortest possible time.”

According to a release from the Office of the Prime Minister yesterday, Persad-Bissessar convinced Chinese Premier Li Keqiang that the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard “needed two vessels to lock down this country’s borders in light of the increase in arms and narco-trafficking.”

Persad-Bissessar is currently on a state visit to China with a delegation from this country, including several Cabinet members.

“The Prime Minister said she was aware that China was building two LRVs and requested that Li Keqiang sell one ‘in the shortest possible time,’” according to the release.

“National security remains the number one priority of my government right now,” Persad-Bissessar told Li, according to the release.

National Security Minister Gary Griffith yesterday sought to debunk comparisons of the possible acquisition of the LRV to the purchase of offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) that had been scrapped by the People’s Partnership in 2010.

Griffith said the LRV is “far superior, cheaper, more effective and better prepared for the type of situation ”we have here.” He said the OPV purchase was “littered with irregularities and flaws”.

In 2007, the previous People’s National Movement administration signed a £150 million contract with VT Shipbuilding to build and commission vessels to patrol local waters and provide naval protection and surveillance.

British defense manufacturer BAE Systems eventually acquired VT Shipbuilding in 2009.

In 2010, months after assuming office, the People’s Partnership government canceled the contract, saying the vessels were not built according to specifications.

Speaking at a news conference yesterday at the Ministry of National Security’s head office at Temple Court, Abercromby Street, Port of Spain, Griffith said the LRV purchase cannot be compared to that of the OPVs.

Griffith claimed 17 countries have taken legal action against BAE as a result of kickbacks paid to government officials.

He said the OPVs would not have served a proper function without being backed by intelligence. “You could put a hundred OPVs around a shoreline and it would be of no value if you do not have intelligence to pinpoint where our borders are being infiltrated,” Griffith said.

Griffith said that is why he re-energized the security cooperation agreement between this country and Venezuela and Colombia.

He said the LRVs are to be part of the mari­time puzzle to be implemented.

“The whole concept of a maritime security wall is not just about long-range patrol vessels. It involves a three-tiered approach which involves the acquisition of hovercraft interceptors floating coastal platforms, UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), helicopters; so it is a whole concept of pieces being put together to have a proper jigsaw puzzle locked in to secure our borders,” Griffith said.

“The long-range patrol vessels are important but that is something to secure our exclusive economic zone, which is from the north and the east coast from 12 to 200 miles north and east of Trinidad and Tobago,” he said.

Griffith said the purchase of the OPVs would not have been beneficial to taxpayers.

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