Honduras to Have Logistical Support Vessel

Honduras to Have Logistical Support Vessel

By Iris Amador/Diálogo
April 14, 2017

A keel-laying ceremony marked the start of construction of a logistics support and cargo vessel (BAL-C, per its Spanish acronym) by the Colombian Navy for the Armed Forces of Honduras. The ship is being built by the Science and Technology Corporation for Development of the Naval, Maritime and Riverine Industry of Colombia (COTECMAR, per its Spanish acronym). The February 27th ceremony in Cartagena, Colombia was attended by officials of both military institutions. During the ceremony, Vice Admiral Jorge Enrique Carreño, president of COTECMAR, said that the project marks a new stage of cooperation between Colombia and Honduras. He compared the union between the two countries with the weld strength that joined the sections of the ship together. “The resistance in the welding is greater than the resistance of the steel itself, and it is our hope that our cooperation is even stronger than the welding,” Vice Adm. Carreño said. He also indicated that the cooperation between Honduras and Colombia in the fight against transnational crime, intelligence, naval operations, and training dates back many years. “Today, we begin cooperation in a different realm, the technological realm.” Security and support “Honduras has vast expanses that can be reached only by air or maritime routes. The difficulty we have in accessing and communicating with them, and the need to protect those zones, led the country to invest in the purchase of a logistics and transport support vessel,” Rear Admiral Jesús Benítez, commander of the Honduran Navy, told Diálogo. “This ship will fulfill a multiplicity of missions, some of which will be geared towards supporting isolated communities, bringing them supplies and other kinds of humanitarian aid, and other missions will be focused on sustaining our operations in the fight against drug trafficking,” Rear Adm. Benítez indicated. Because of its geographical location, Honduras is used as a gateway for drug traffickers in their attempts to move drugs from South America to North America. But the country’s efforts to protect its Pacific and Caribbean waters have made their transit more difficult. “Since we began reinforcing our Maritime Shield in January 2014, drug traffickers have had to change their way of operating,” Rear Adm. Benítez stated. “They have kept away from our coasts and they have been forced to use sailboats, fishing boats, and small motorboats, which means it takes them more time and involves a higher cost.” First in Central America The Honduran Navy commander explained that in addition to reinforcing the nation’s defense, they are looking to strengthen its maritime and river capabilities to assist neighboring countries in emergencies. “With the BAL-C, we are acquiring the greater capacity to aid countries in the region in the event of natural disasters, because this vessel can transport cargo below decks and on deck: food, water, trucks, dump trucks, and fuel for vehicles and airplanes,” he stated. Honduras will be the first nation in Central America to have a BAL-C, which can transport 210 metric tons on its loading deck, can reach speeds of nine knots, and can be deployed at sea for 40 days. It also has its own desalination plant that produces up to 2,000 gallons of potable water per day. With enough room for 15 crewmembers, its length overall will be 160 feet and its beam 36 feet. “One of the main advantages of this ship is that it can dock on a beach without a pier. It doesn’t need port infrastructure, and it can make approaches to the coast without running aground,” Rear Adm. Benítez pointed out. Knowledge and technology transfer Honduras and Colombia signed a cooperation agreement in April 2016, and in November of that year, the president of Honduras and COTECMAR formalized an agreement for the construction and the transfer of knowledge and technology to officials in the Honduran Navy. “The accord includes two years of maintenance support and training for three of our officers,” Rear Adm. Benítez said. He also indicated that mechatronics engineers are already in Colombia enrolled at Admiral Padilla Military Naval School, where they will earn a master’s degree in Naval Engineering. Lieutenant Johnnie Sibrián is one of the Honduran officials in Colombia. “We are going to take part in the process of building this ship from the cutting to the assembly of the sections. The hull has already come a long way,” he said. “What we learn here, we want to transfer to others.”
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