Following its christening in Puerto Cortés, Honduras, the Honduran Navy’s (FNH, in Spanish) new logistical support and cabotage vessel (BAL-C, in Spanish) Gracias a Dios began its first humanitarian mission loaded with medical equipment and social welfare supplies to serve thousands of residents of a remote region in the far east of Honduras.
“The regions of La Mosquitia and Gracias a Dios won’t be the same again,” Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández said during the mission’s send-off ceremony. “We will continue to work to support them as they rightfully deserve.”
The modern ship anchored at Puerto Lempira, on the Mosquito Coast in the department of Gracias a Dios, with more than 150 tons of food, clothing, medicine, and water purification filters. The humanitarian ship also transported medical and dental equipment and three mobile clinics to treat pediatric, obstetric, gynecological, and dental cases.
Members of the Gracias a Dios Subordinate Interagency Joint Task Force under FNH and the 5th Army Infantry Battalion coordinated and mobilized residents of La Mosquitia to receive humanitarian aid. The Honduran Air Force supported air transfer of medical personnel to assist the health brigade.
Doing its part
“Residents of all the communities of that region welcomed BALC-C Gracias a Dios with great joy,” FNH Commander Ernesto Ávila Kattan, head of the FNH Public Relations Department, told Diálogo. “We’re grateful because we don’t have medicine for the sick and the elderly here,” said Glenda Manuel Ransin, a resident of Puerto Lempira. “We had to wait many years for the arrival of a ship of this magnitude and for the medical brigade.”
“The Naval Force managed to do its part for this community that so desperately needs it,” FNH Lieutenant Israel Oniel Sánchez, captain of the BAL-C Gracias a Dios, told Diálogo. “This village lacks access to roads to reach urban areas. The only way out is via air or sea.”
On its maiden voyage, the FNH positively impacted the lives of more than 5,000 people. Authorities now consider making monthly trips to serve the most vulnerable families in this remote area. “The objective is to become the main humanitarian bridge for thousands of Hondurans,” Lt. Oniel said. “The ship will also serve the remote regions of Colón, the Bay Islands, and the Swan Islands.”
BAL-C Gracias a Dios also completed the transfer of 50 artificial reef modules to the Barra and Datillo area, in La Ceiba Atlántida municipality. The goal is to increase marine species of flora and fauna and improve traditional fishing in the region.
The new ship can navigate in waters of less than 1.5 meters deep, which facilitates embarkation and disembarkation without the need for a pier. The vessel can transport up to 220 tons and has a 40-day autonomous range on the open sea with a 15-person crew.
“This powerful ally will make it possible for us to improve our response capacities in emergency events or natural disasters—something we couldn’t offer previously,” Lt. Oniel explained. “With this vessel, we can enter and exit more safely.”
BAL-C Gracias a Dios joins the maritime shield to defend Honduras from the threats of transnational organized crime. “The Honduran Navy is strengthened with this multipurpose vessel to guard the nation’s vast maritime space,” Cmdr. Ávila explained. “The ship can load two to four interceptor boats, making operations and patrols to reduce drug trafficking in Honduras more effective.”
One of the Honduran government’s objectives is to provide greater security to the residents of Mosquitia. Each month, the Armed Forces of Honduras relieve the personnel stationed at different detachments in the department of Gracias a Dios to join the maritime shield mission. Military units perform security and drug enforcement duties.
“The Gracias a Dios will provide logistics services during emergencies and natural disasters in all nations of the region that might need humanitarian, social, or medical assistance,” Cmdr. Ávila added. “It can transport heavy machinery for road repairs and furniture for schools in remote or affected areas. All to the benefit of the most vulnerable populations,” he concluded.