Costa Rica: Coast Guard invests in infrastructure, technology
By Dialogo July 18, 2012
SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica – The Costa Rican National Coast Guard Service (SNG) is on a building spree, aiming to open 12 bases along the Pacific and Caribbean coasts by the end of the year, said SNG Director Martín Arias.
“We are going to have buildings that are modern and comfortable for our people and close to the communities they work with,” he added. “What the National Police Force does in security work, we are also going to have in our communities.”
The SNG, which celebrated the 12th anniversary of its founding in May, has seized more than 30 tons of drugs since 2005 – an amount Arias said is roughly equivalent to US$500 million in profits taken away from international narco-trafficking organizations. The SNG seized more than five tons of narcotics between May 2011 and May 2012.
“Thirty tons is an important achievement and I believe the country should feel very confident in a service like ours,” Arias said.
The SNG’s growth, in terms of both new stations and new boats in the national fleet, has been funded in part by approximately US$5.5 million in aid from the United States, according to the Public Security Ministry. Of the US$5.5 million, US$3.5 million went toward building an SNG station in Puerto Caldera on the Pacific Coast that opened this past March. The United States also donated two high-tech interceptor boats worth about US$1.8 million.
Arias said the SNG spent US$1.2 million to purchase seven interceptor boats from Colombia, with four having already arrived in the Central American nation. The agency is investing US$650,000 to rebuild an older patrol boat as part of a US$3.3 million investment to develop its fleet this year.
“We’re looking hard at our coastal fleet,” Arias said. “We’re looking to improve our smaller boats and our interceptor boats, as well as restoring patrol boats that haven’t been used in years.”
Arias said the SNG recently opened a new station on the Northern Caribbean Coast near the estuary of the Pacuare River, giving security forces access to the Tortuguero Canals, which have been used by narco-traffickers and poachers who snatch sea turtle eggs.
The SNG is building a US$900,000 facility to be inaugurated near the end of August at the Caribbean shipping port in Moín. The SNG also is planning to build a station in the town of Sixaola, near the Panamanian border, Arias said.
On the Pacific Coast, the SNG is expected to build a station near the town of Drake and another station, which is part of a joint project with the Environment Ministry, at Puerto Coyote.
In November, the Environment Ministry and the Public Security Ministry (MSP) signed an accord to cooperate in the protection of Costa Rica’s marine resources with a focus on illegal fishing.
“We are going to open a new Coast Guard station in Nandayure, which is an area where we’ve had little presence,” Arias said. “And in July, we’re going to lay the first stone of the Coast Guard station in Flamingo, in Santa Cruz, which represents an investment of US$1.25 million financed by the government of the United States.”
Arias added the SNG would be investing in improvements in a station near Murciélago, close to the Nicaraguan border.
Public Security Minister Mario Zamora said the SNG currently has about 44 boats stationed along the Pacific and Caribbean coasts.
“The Coast Guard also is in the process of incorporating new technologies, specifically the placement of radar stations, on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts,” Zamora said.
Zamora said the SNG will also be adding GPS units to patrol boats, enabling command centers to monitor the status of boats on the high sea. The units will help conserve fuel and ensure captains are patrolling assigned areas.
“Today, there are manual systems and the captain of the ships can do what they desire to do,” he added. “With these technological systems, we’re going to incorporate important levels of internal controls.”