Belize Coast Guard Seeks Support from Taiwan for Capability Enhancement
The Belize Coast Guard is hoping to bolster its capabilities and enhance the technical skills of its sailors through support from the Government of the Republic of China (Taiwan). Recently, the Minister of National Defense and Border Security, Florencio Marin Jr., his C.E.O., and Commandant of the Belize Coast Guard Rear Admiral Elton Bennett, and Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance Christopher Coye returned from a trip to the Island Nation. The trip focused on areas such as improving defense engagement, exploring possible areas of training in marine science, and the procurement of additional patrol vessels. Rear Admiral Bennett explained that the trip saw several positive outcomes in areas of importance.
RADM Elton Bennett, Commandant, Belize Coast Guard: “We had the opportunity to look at the broad defense enterprise in Taiwan. Last year September we signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ocean Affairs Council in Taiwan. So we’re able to physically go to Taiwan now and explore options on moving forward with this memorandum of understanding. So we’re looking at a broad range of education opportunities beyond the career development courses, but we’re also looking at expertise development, we’re looking at specialists course for example in the field of marine science is something that Taiwan is very big on and they are already making contributions to Belize. So we want to tap into that and expand. We want to be able to explore options that are perhaps even beyond the Belize Coast Guard that we can assist other agencies in Belize that can tap into to the Ocean Affairs Council in Taiwan so we can broaden our horizon and do more for the country. You know, Belize and Taiwan shares quite a broad area of interest. You know, they’re very much into conservation, as Belize is, so we have common interests in terms of conservation and protecting the marine environment, and that’s where we find common ground for us to be able to discuss areas of improvement, but also face common threats as well. Mainland China overlooking the Strait of Taiwan so a very similar situation with Belize and our neighbor in Guatemala where we quite often would have tensions. So it’s a very good discussion, but also moving forward in terms of looking at the defense enterprise in terms of technology, in terms of hardware. We had the opportunity to visit a couple shipyards in Taiwan. We are exploring at this stage options to build patrol boats for the Belize Coast Guard and we found one of the shipyards that we believe is a very good candidate for the construction of those patrol boats. So we will continue discussions along those lines.”
Rear Admiral Bennett added that within the coming months, the BCG will be provided with 6 drones from the Government of Taiwan that will greatly improve their patrolling efforts.
RADM Elton Bennett, Commandant, Belize Coast Guard: “We had the opportunity to look at what’s available in Taiwan in terms of the technology and to see how applicable those specific UAVs would be for our purposes. So a very productive trip. That’s on a technical aspect, but the Minister had the opportunity to engage with his counterparts in Taiwan, meeting with the Defence Minister and personnel in national security and of course the minister responsible for Ocean Affairs Council which governs the Taiwanese Coast Guard so we had ministerial meetings as well and committed to continue the working relationship and to include defense as one of those pillars of exchange between Taiwan and Belize. We’re looking at trying to improve the efficiency of our patrols. Currently our vessels are very expensive to operate so to be able to transfer some of those operations from surface to a drone would save us quite a lot in our operating costs. You’d have to appreciate that whether the drone is a battery operated or a small engine operated, there’s a significant cost saving as relates to routine operations, but it also makes our operations more effective. We’ll be able to put an eye in the sky that will be able to support our search and rescue operations for example. But very importantly be able to conduct surveillance for us as relates to fishes enforcement and conservation of the marine protected areas. So we’re looking at efficiency and effectiveness as well that will be able to improve our operations.”