Sept. 29, 2005 Anyone breaking the law along the shores and in the costal waters around the Virgin Islands won't find it so easy to get away with as it once was.
The Department of Planning and Natural Resources Thursday showed off two new boats purchased to patrol the V.I. waters.
The two aluminum catamarans one 34-foot and the other 29-foot, both with twin 275-horse power outboards were specially made for the Virgin Islands. They are fast, with a 40 mph speed claimed for both boats.
The catamaran design also allows for sharp turns that were demonstrated to members of the press and officials in a short ride from Christiansted to near Coakley Beach, after a press conference on the Christiansted boardwalk.
The Law Enforcement Planning Commission, Office of Domestic Preparedness paid $600,000 for the boats.
Adj. Gen. Eddy Charles, an advisor for LEPC, said that this was part of a comprehensive equipment purchase plan put together by that agency.
Dean C. Plaskett, commissioner of DPNR, said the present administration has been working to bring the Virgin Islands "up to par on Homeland Security." He added, "This goes a long way in that regard."
He said that when he became commissioner in 1999, DPNR had no boats to patrol the coastlines. Before the purchase of these last two boats, the DPNR had built its fleet up to four boats on St. Croix and four on St. Thomas. None of those boats are larger than 26 feet and one on St. Thomas was out of commission.
The new boats will patrol to check for violations of marine and environmental laws. They will also be called to support the V.I. Police Department and the U.S. Coast Guard when needed in drug and illegal immigration interdiction.
Plaskett pointed out that the DPNR boats are also used when cruise ships pull into Frederiksted. He said the DPNR enforcement officers make sure refueling permits are complied with, and they also maintain security around the ships.
Plaskett stated in a press release, "These vessels will enhance DPNR's effort in border protection and will be used as a multi-task vessel for boating safety, fisheries, search and rescue and to support other government agencies to include the U.S. Coast Guard in response to marine incidents."
The vessels are equipped with state of the art electronic and navigation equipment. They are also apparently easy to operate. Plaskett said that, after some brief instruction, he was able to take control of one of the boats and pilot it. However, he was quick to point out that all the officers on the boats are trained, some through federal agencies. He said presently DPNR has six officers for the boats and a seventh one is coming on board soon. He added that DPNR is looking to get more officers through the next police academy held on St. Thomas.
One of the new boats will be home ported on St. Thomas and the other on St. Croix. However, their range is a couple hundred miles, so they will be going back and forth between islands when needed.
Charles praised the boats for their mobility, stability and what he called being "fatigue resistant." He said there was nothing like these boats in any law enforcement agency in the Caribbean. He added that the National Guard might require their use if guardsmen needed to be transported between islands for civil support.
He called the acquisition of the boats a "force multiplier" in the effort to protect V.I. coastlines.
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