The US government has donated two 33-foot Special Purpose Craft Law Enforcement (SPC-LE) boats to the Liberian Coast Guard to boost its operational capacity.
A statement from the US embassy in Monrovia said the boats are part of a $2.2 million consignment of equipment that also includes two Ford F-350 trucks, two Polaris 800 four wheel drive vehicles and two containers of assorted spare parts and equipment valued at $1.1 million.
Ambassador Deborah Malac said the US Government also provided an additional $1 million to construct a new four-bay boathouse, small office building and to provide electricity and water for the buildings.
US Coast Guard Commander Patrick Clark said the new boats provide the Liberian Coast Guard (LCG) with an enhanced capability to better patrol the waters off Liberia’s coast, more rapidly respond to search and rescue cases, and protect maritime infrastructure, such as offshore oil and gas operations.
The new equipment was transferred from the US flagged merchant vessel, Ocean Crescent, to Liberian Coast Guard Station Freeport in January. Training with the new pursuit boats started on January 20 and the boats will be commissioned as part of the Armed Forces Day celebrations on February 11.
According to the US Coast Guard, the 33-foot SPC-LE is derived from the Department of Homeland Security’s 33-foot long Defender-class boats. The boats are powered by three Mercury Verado 275 horsepower outboard engines giving a top speed of more than 50 knots. With a beam of 10 feet, a draft of 30 inches, a displacement of 11 960 pounds and space for six crew members, the SPC-LE also features an extended range of 250 nautical miles.
The boat has a fully enclosed heated and air conditioned cabin and six shock-mitigating seats which reduce crew fatigue and allow for operations in heavier seas. The boats are designed specifically for pursuit operations through rough seas.
Several variants of the SPC-LE are deployed at USCG bases and some have been exported to countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East under the US Foreign Military Sales Programme.
Through the bi-lateral co-operation agreement Operation Onward Liberty, the Liberian Coast Guard has received extensive US support for security sector reform towards the re-building of the armed forces after the civil war which ended in 2003.
The LCG is a small part of the 2 000 strong Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL). The new SPC-LE boats will bring the number of vessels operated by the LCG to four as it already operates two Defender Class patrol vessels which were also donated by the US in 2011.
In November last year, a mobile training team from the International Training Detachment of US Coast Guard Training Base in Yorktown led a six-week course which was aimed at providing the Liberian Coast Guard with a self-sustaining training capacity for maritime security operations centred on the boarding of vessels.