NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The multi-million-dollar Sandy Bottom operation, led by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF), is steadily preparing the force to increase its efforts to properly secure the country’s borders, according to Captain Philip Clarke, Principal Officer for Strategic Planning and Policy, RBDF.
There is a need for the $232 million project to be completed, particularly as the RBDF is on high alert for the influx of Haitian migrants due to political unrest in Haiti.
To this end, the force recently released its updated anti-smuggling efforts to crack down on illegal human, weapon and drug trafficking.
Capt. Clarke revealed that the introduction of new tech-gadgets tops the force’s list of innovative tools to assist with potential threats to the country’s borders.
A long-range radar system tops that list, Capt. Clarke shared.
“The radar will give us the ability to have full coverage of our waters to monitor maritime activity,” Capt. Clarke said.
“The radar is already in place and in short order it should be operational.
“When it becomes operational, it will be a 24-hour operation and it will boost our surveillance efforts to another level.
The force has also started using drones to assist with its patrol, Capt. Clarke noted.
The pilot effort has been launched in New Providence.
“We have a slight commercial system that we are using around the southern borders of New Providence now; so, we are testing that now to see the viability moving forward,” he said.
“We are able to now get visuals from above to see what is going on on the ground.
“Also, areas that we are not able to easily access, we can deploy the drones and allow us to see what is happening.”
In addition to the introduction of new technology, the force is hoping to increase its manpower.
There are currently 15, 000 marines engaged in active service.
The force wants to expand that number to 25, 000.
“That will help us in our expansion and decentralization programme,” Capt. Clarke noted.
“Decentralizing in the north in Grand Bahama and Abaco, and then in the south we will be able to man Inagua and Ragged Island.”
The dredging aspect of operation sandy bottom will also allow the force to properly navigate its vessels at other ports throughout the country…
“That will enable our vessels to now be able to get further support and will also enable us to move our logistics from Coral Harbour to Matthew Town, to our major threat area,” he said.
“When I say logistics I’m talking about food, fuel and manpower. Having all of these necessities in the Southern Bahamas means that we will be able to properly man our base down there without any deficiencies.
“We know that the Southern Bahamas is a hot spot for illegal migration so decentralizing and getting that base going will truly mean a lot for the RBDF.”
Capt. Clarke is hopeful that operation Sandy Bottom will near completion by the end of 2019.
Once completed, he said the force will be able to operate at optimum levels.