Guyana steps up offshore monitoring – Commander in Chief

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Commander In Chief President Dr Irfaan Ali

In the wake of Venezuela incursions into Guyana’s waters, which started earlier this month and with two fishing vessels being detained, President Dr Irfaan Ali, the commander in chief for Guyana’s armed forces, has assured that Guyana’s coast guard has stepped up its monitoring in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) offshore Guyana.

The president made this pronouncement during a virtual briefing on Saturday with other top officials.

According to the President, Guyana has since stepped up its monitoring of the EEZ, from which two Guyanese fishing vessels were recently seized by the Venezuelans.

“Our EEZ remains open. It is our EEZ. And we have stepped up the monitoring of our EEZ… the Guyana Defense Force has been actively monitoring and actively informing me as commander in chief, as to the various developments in relation to our EEZ, airspace and land border. We remain committed, strong and vigilant.”

Cognizant of dangers

This point was reinforced by the Government’s Advisor on Borders, former Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge, who urged fishermen to carry on their activities while remaining cognizant of the dangers. He also suggested that the Guyana Defense Force (GDF) play an increased role in alerting fishermen to the Venezuelan presence.

Advisor on Borders Carl Greenidge

“I think the important thing to note here and I’m not saying this lightly because we know there are hazards… Venezuela would be very happy if Guyanese were to decide, out of fear of Venezuela, they would get up and leave Essequibo… because they can then say to the world, look! These people don’t want this territory. They recognize they are there improperly and so they are not using it,” Greenidge said.

“We have to avoid that. And I’m saying this aware of the risks. Ask the crews that go out, to be especially alert and careful. Perhaps the GDF can find some communication mechanism by which they keep in touch with them as far as possible to see what might be done or advise given… if the GDF has spotted hazards in particular zones or regions, hazards. But what Venezuela would like to see is the abandonment of our marine resources,” the Advisor on Border noted.

Meanwhile, the GDF’s Chief of Staff Godfrey Bess revealed that the army first noticed Venezuelan vessels in the EEZ earlier this month, just over 20 nautical miles from the coast of Guyana. He explained that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was informed of these developments.

“We would have observed that the Venezuelans navy ships have been in our EEZ from January 14 and they have been there intermittently. And we recognize that their mode of movement in the EEZ has been approximately 60 nautical miles east of our median line and approximately 25 nautical miles from the coast of Guyana,” the Chief of Staff said.

GDF Chief of Staff Brigadier Godfrey Bess

However, Bess noted that Guyana has been engaging with friendly military countries in the region and will continue sharing information with stakeholders. According to him, meetings were recently held with the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD).

“We continue to work with our regional partners, friendly military countries. We also continue to monitor our sea space. We’re out there, also by air and we’ve also recently met with the mariners and included MARAD,” Brigadier General Bess said.

“We’ve had discussions and we’ll continue to have information sharing with our fisherfolk and all the persons using our sea space, to ensure that their economic life continues. We will continue to collaborate with our regional and international military persons who have been doing operations and exercises with us.”

On January 21, two Guyanese registered fishing vessels and a 12-man crew that were operating off the coast of Waini Point in Guyana’s EEZ were intercepted by the Venezuelan naval vessel, Commandante Hugo Chavez GC 24, which was illegally traversing Guyana’s waters.

The Venezuelans boarded the vessels and the captains were instructed to chart a course to Port Guiria where they were detained and are being kept to this day. The crew of one of the ships, the Lady Nayera, include Captain Richard Ramnarine and his crew members Ramlakan Kamal, Nick Raghubar, Javin Boston, Michael Domingo and Joel Joseph.

                                             Lady Nayera

The other ship, the Sea Wolf, was captained by Captain Toney Garraway, while the crew members included Errol Gardener, Orland Roberts, Christopher Shaw, Shirvin Oneil and Randy Henry.

They have since been brought before a Venezuelan court and reports indicate they will be kept in custody for some 45 days pending an investigation.