Honduran Naval Force Takes Course on Boarding
By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo May 23, 2017Members of the U.S. Coast Guard taught a course on maritime law and boarding to Honduran Naval Force (FNH, per its Spanish acronym) personnel to improve their abilities and procedures in all kinds of operations on the high seas. A team of 10 experts from the U.S. Coast Guard trained six officers, seven noncommissioned officers, and five marines. The training was held at the Naval Training Center at Puerto Castilla Naval Base in Honduras from March 20th to 31st. The goal of the course was to provide professional operational readiness for boarding and searching Honduran and foreign vessels. “For our institution, it is important to train and be up-to-date in all areas, and law enforcement is key to carrying out the duty that has been assigned to us,” said Captain Héctor Tercero López, chief of Naval Operations, in a press release. Personnel from various Honduran units acquired specialized knowledge and skills in boarding and registering vessels; on human rights and international humanitarian law; and on identifying illicit items on board vessels sailing in Honduran waters and maritime laws. “Applying this knowledge and these skills will enable personnel in the Honduran squadron to improve their abilities and their procedures at the time of pre-boarding, during boarding, and after boarding vessels suspected of transporting illicit items, following all international laws and regulations, in order to preserve our national sovereignty,” said Lieutenant Erick Javier Pérez Sorto, chief of Naval Training for FNH. In this activity, participants carried out a series of practice exercises at sea, simulating an encounter with a vessel with civilians aboard who did not have the documentation or stamps required for sailing. In accordance with established procedures for such cases, FNH intercepted the vessel. Naval officers informed the captain of the suspect vessel of the reason for the inspection. After verifying the vessel’s and crew’s documentation, the officers conducted an inspection of spaces where drugs were found. The personnel immediately transferred the vessel to the nearest naval station and placed it at the disposal of the competent authority. During these mock exercises, participants employed the use of force when any individual resisted being searched or fought against the boarding team. “The use of force was done in strict adherence to current human rights regulations,” Lt. Pérez indicated. “In searching vessels, we apply various tips on searching that the experts from the U.S. Coast Guard shared with us in order to be more efficient in detecting drug and human trafficking or any indication of terrorism,” Honduran Navy Lieutenant Ricardo Valdez told Diálogo. He is captain of the FNH ship LP Tegucigalpa, and he participated in the event. “This part of the course was the one that was most impactful for me because my ship does all kinds of operations nearly all the time,” he added. Many benefits are derived from this training. “Before, if we proceeded with the legal detention procedure incorrectly, the vessel would be set free, even after it had been turned over to the competent authorities,” Lt. Pérez said. “Nowadays, such injustices by Navy officers and noncommissioned officers are no longer committed when processing a vessel. These types of situations have been reduced thanks to the professionalization of our personnel through these kinds of courses,” he added. After completing the seminar, the FNH personnel that participated in the training series were certified after demonstrating in practice the required skills and abilities for conducting all kinds of operations on the high seas. According to the Honduran Secretariat for Defense, the U.S. and Honduran governments have a long history of strategic partnership in areas of civil safety and defense cooperation, a partnership that is reinforced year after year through personnel training and the donation of specialized equipment in different areas. “The United States is a great ally in the fight against drug trafficking and criminality. The support of its Armed Forces has helped us reinforce our maritime shield and divert the flow of drugs. Relations between both countries are quite good,” Lt. Pérez commented. “Ongoing training is important so that we don’t let unlawful activities happen.” “The key is staying one step ahead because criminal groups are always looking for new ways of eluding justice. My crew — nearly 50 percent of whom took this course — is eager to put what they have learned in the training into practice,” Lt. Valdez added.