The training, which lasts just under three months, will end in early April.
Costa Rican Coast Guard officers are in the United States for 10 weeks of training. The training will allow them to command, navigate, and maintain the two patrol boats the U.S. donated to Costa Rica in October 2017.
In all, 47 Costa Rican coast guard members are training at the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Yard in Baltimore, Maryland. The service members arrived on January 15th and will depart for Costa Rica aboard the patrol boats on April 3rd. The training, held under the Excess Defense Articles (EDA) program of the U.S. Office of International Acquisition, consists of academic and hands-on courses teaching basic skills to operate the vessels. The transfer of the patrol boats also took place under the EDA program.
“The classroom portion lasted eight weeks and was focused on the 110-foot [vessels] systems and damage control,” said Aleshia Harding, a USCG Foreign Military Sales program manager responsible for the Costa Rica EDA transfer. “Each new 110-foot [vessel] crew is now participating in one week of training so they are fully ready to operate the vessels during their transit home.”
According to Harding, USCG members with extensive knowledge of the 110-foot patrol boats are in charge of the training. The training event is the first one to combine Costa Rican and U.S. Coast Guard units in that ship class.
Competence and capabilities
“The training seeks to ensure the good use and proper operation and maintenance of these patrol boats,” Commissioner Martín Arias Araya, director of the Costa Rican Coast Guard, told Diálogo. “It will enable [the crews] to be effective and efficient.”
The deployed Costa Rican Coast Guard group includes personnel specialized in different areas, such as captains, first officers, mechanics, electronics, communications, and navigation specialists, among others. Each officer, Commissioner Arias emphasized, has several years of tenure in the service.
“They were selected from among the Costa Rican Coast Guard members who have been in the service since 2000 or 2001,” Commissioner Arias said. “All of them have operational and navigational experience, and have all met high training standards.”
On April 3rd, both patrol boats will depart from the Baltimore shipyard, en route to their new homeport in Caldera, Costa Rica. Four USCG personnel will accompany the Costa Rican crews on their journey.
“The crews will make two stops at USCG stations for refueling and resupply before arriving in Limón, Costa Rica,” Harding told Diálogo. “After transiting the Panama Canal, they will arrive at their new homeport in Caldera, Costa Rica. A ceremony honoring the arrival of the vessels will be held on April 26th.”
Return to service
Even though these patrol boats were donated on October 13, 2017, through a transfer ceremony held in Costa Rica, the Costa Rican flag was not immediately hoisted on the boats. On February 13th, a delegation made up of officials from Costa Rica and the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica visited the U.S. Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore to officially receive the boats.
The patrol boats, also known as “the Coast Guard’s workhorses,” went from the Island class of U.S. vessels to the Libertador class in Costa Rica. Under their new service commission, the vessels were rechristened the Juan Rafael Mora Porras and the General José María Cañas Escamilla.
“The Costa Rican Coast Guard members will return to their country trained and full of conviction, ready to play a transformational role in protecting their waters and keeping Costa Rican territory safe from the scourges of narcotrafficking, human smuggling, illegal fishing, and other illegal activities,” Sharon Day, the U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica, said. The ambassador added that the donation was “the result of long hours of work and constant dedication.”
Built in the 1980s, the vessels operated in Alaska before being decommissioned in 2015. While the Costa Rican crews received their training, the boats were upgraded with new radar, communications equipment, and a fresh coat of paint.
“The USCG team has worked closely with the crew through the planning process, vessel reactivation, and training as they prepare for transit to Costa Rica,” Harding said. “We are impressed by the crews’ dedication and positive attitude and look forward to them putting these cutters into service again.”