Minister of National Security, Fitzgerald Hinds MP, as he addressed recruits at the T&T Defence Force (TTDF) passing out ceremony at the Tetron Barracks in Chaguaramas, on Monday 3 May 2021. (Image courtesy TTDF)

The T&T Government has approved the purchase of two Cape-class patrol boats to increase border security and safeguard the country’s maritime domain.

This was revealed on Monday by Minister of National Security, Fitzgerald Hinds MP, during his address at the T&T Defence Force (TTDF) passing out ceremony of new recruits, which took place at the Tetron Barracks in Chaguaramas.

Hinds said the patrol boats “will strengthen the capacity of the T&T Coast Guard.”

“These vessels will be joining the Coast Guard fleet sooner rather than later, and I give you the assurance that project will not be aborted to your trauma and to the disservice of the people of T&T,” Hinds said.

The Cape class is a ship class of 10 large patrol boats operated by the Marine Unit of the Australian Border Force and Royal Australian Navy. The vessels are built by Austal and cost some US$38.6 million.

Minister Hinds also disclosed that the government is seeking to facilitate the reintegration of one of the AW139 helicopters back into service, to provide essential air surveillance support to the coast guard, as well as any other aerial operational requirements “in support of the business of national security.”

Hinds also noted that the relocation of two companies of the Second Infantry Battalion of the T&T Regiment (TTR) from the heliport in Chaguaramas to Camp La Romaine is expected to be completed by 31st May 2021.

The overall project comprises the construction of five buildings with the total floor space of 1,300 square meters for approximately 700 soldiers.

“This project is part of the larger development plan for Camp La Romaine, which will allow for the TTR to have at any time a force that can assist in providing much needed security to the exposed Southern Peninsula, as well as this country’s oil and gas assets,” Hinds said.

“The Ministry has been pursuing a whole of government approach to treat with the issues that confront us. In that regard, the service to your country will be executed within numerous strategic operations and duties, notably the TTDF, which continues to provide the operational support to the T&T Police Service (TTPS) in the fight against crime on the blocks, on the streets, and in the communities around T&T,” he added.

Some of the Defence Force graduates during the March Past at the passing out ceremony at the Tetron Barracks in Chaguaramas, on Monday 3 May 2021. (Image courtesy TTDF)

He advised the new recruits that many of them, new members of the Regiment, will be called upon to join in the TTPS for inter-agency operations, which are designed to provide a greater sense of security and comfort to the people of those communities throughout the country.

“The Ministry of National Security, which has strategic oversight of the Defence Force, will continue to provide unwavering support as we continue to work together to provide protection and safety and stability in this twin island Republic,” Hinds said.

“Our current national security environment is dynamic and ever changing and calls for astute leadership. Crime is Transnational in nature, defying all borders.  The threat is no longer solely an external one and armed forces the world over are being called to augment and tailor existing strategies to meet new and evolving threats. In this regard, the TTDF has expanded its traditional role of defending our countries borders from external threats to also treat with internal threats such as terrorism, human trafficking, cybercrime, and natural disasters,” he added.

The Minister encouraged the new recruits to be professional at all times, because they are being held to a higher standard.

“As you execute your duties, graduates, I encourage you all at all times henceforth, to operate professionally, to be accountable and to ensure that you are able as individuals, as officers of this proud force to withstand public scrutiny private or public. You must—as well as the demands of citizens, the defence force, and the government—put your training into practice for greater benefit of your colleagues your organization and your country.”

Hinds also commended the medical staff of the TTDF for their expertise and their ingenuity for the implementation and management of the medical bio bubble to which the training staff and recruits were made to conform.

“The execution of that infrastructure ensured that there was no contamination within the bio bubble which resulted in the proud record that not one single COVID-19 case was made manifest throughout the duration of the training process,” the minister noted.

He added: “It also ensured that the development and work of the TTDF defied the beast of COVID-19 and continued your work and your training unabated—no easy or mean feat!—and again I salute you, given how that virus works and given the nature of your military training and the way you do your work. This is no small feat, but I’m not surprised, the TTDF remains the biggest National secret in terms of your record, your capacity and your capabilities as individuals and as a force.”