The Jamaica Defence Force’s (JDF) investment in its counternarcotics capabilities paid significant dividends in late November 2021, when its newest unit, the 2nd District JDF Coast Guard, seized nearly 1 ton of cocaine in an operation off the island’s southern coast.
The seizure is important because of the volume and street value of the drug, but also because the 2nd District JDF Coast Guard had been operational for barely over two weeks prior to the operation.
On November 22, near the small town of Black River, in Saint Elizabeth Parish, JDF units identified a suspicious vessel, and began monitoring its movements, local newspaper Jamaica Observer reported. After intercepting and boarding the vessel, force personnel found 40 bags of cocaine, each weighing well over 20 kilograms. The three men on board, all Jamaican nationals, were taken into custody.
“Results like these only serve to motivate our men and women, and encourage us to continue our efforts to grow and transform as a force,” said JDF Brigadier Roderick Williams, commander of the Maritime, Air and Cyber Command (MACC), while praising the seizure as a demonstration of the unit’s operational capabilities. “Jamaica has invested heavily in its ability to tackle the problem of transnational organized crime, particularly in the areas of narcotrafficking. We’ve upgraded our aircraft, vessels, and surveillance equipment, and have re-oriented the distribution of our maritime personnel, in order to be more agile and responsive to a very fluid operational environment. That investment has certainly paid handsome dividends with this seizure.”
On November 16, the 2nd District JDF Coast Guard was officially activated, the Jamaica Information Service (JIS), a state-owned agency, reported. The unit is designed to increase security in territorial waters to counter narcotrafficking, illicit fishing, and other crimes.
“We have long recognized the importance of strengthening our maritime capabilities to stop or reduce the guns-for-drug trade, as well as to preserve the integrity of Jamaican territorial waters,” Brig. Williams said, referring to the exchange of drugs for guns that criminal gangs in the Caribbean carry out.
According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2021 International Narcotics Strategy Report, Jamaica’s geographic position in the western Caribbean, its hard to patrol coastline, high volume of tourist travel, and status as a major containerized transhipment hub contribute to its use for drug trafficking.
Since late 2016, with the appointment of Lieutenant General Rocky R. Meade as JDF chief of Defence Staff, the institution has embarked on an ambitious expansion strategy. The creation of the new unit fell into that plan, JIS reported. Lt. Gen. Meade is due to retire on January 21, 2022, passing the baton to Commodore Antonette Wemyss Gorman, the first woman to lead the JDF, who upon taking over will be promoted to rear admiral.
“What we have basically accomplished is that we are able to add another naval unit to the Coast Guard. We are an island in the Caribbean Sea that happens to have significantly more maritime responsibilities that far exceed the size of our land mass. Our primary responsibility is about 515,000 square kilometers in size. It’s very important that we have this space under control,” Brig. Williams concluded.