His Royal Highness Prince Edward came to Cayman in early 2007 to break ground for a new base to house the joint police, customs and immigration Marine Unit.
Just three years shy of the anniversary of that visit, it appears that base will become a fully operating reality.
“All of the (marine unit boats) will be docked here in 2010,” says RCIPS Chief Inspector Courtney Myles. “February is our tentative date to move in.”
It wasn’t too long ago that the Cayman Islands Marine Unit consisted of two boats and some jet skis. But times have changed.
A combined government investment of CI $7.7 million, including the cost of the marine base and four new patrol boats was made in 2007 and 2008 to boost Cayman’s border protection capabilities.
Cayman’s coastline and the North Sound are now patrolled by the 65-foot Guardian, three 38-foot interceptor boats, Defender, Niven D, and Tornado. The old standbys Protector and Typhoon as well as the three Wave Runners round out the marine fleet.
The marine base, located at the end of Hirst Road in Newlands is able to dock boats now. A new docking facility, sea wall and launch ramp were completed there late last year as part of phase 1 of the site’s construction.
For now, the Marine Unit boats are still housed at Scott’s Marina in George Town the majority of the time. They were previously kept at SafeHaven, but police felt that location was too far from the eastern end of Grand Cayman.
At this point, it’s not safe or practical to keep the new Marine Unit patrol boats docked in Newlands, Myles says.
“We don’t have water or electricity as yet, and you also have to look at the security aspects of it,” he says.
The storage shed has been built, and a fuelling tank located on site is in the final stage of work. Myles says he expects them to be complete before the end of the year.
The actual base building for the 36 Marine Unit and Drugs Task Force officers who will staff it 24 hours a day is little more than a foundation and some pilings at this point. Police don’t expect that building to be complete until late 2010.
The marine base will be a self-contained, full service unit once complete. The boats can be brought in and out of the water via a concrete ramp and then housed for repairs and refuelling in the shed, which is actually more the size of a warehouse.
“We’ve got the best launch ramp in the Cayman Islands,” Myles says.
Myles says electrical connections are still being set up with Caribbean Utilities Company and some planning approvals are needed as well, but doesn’t believe the process will be too long delayed.
The Marine Base headquarters building will essentially be a 24-hour, seven day a week police station.
“It’s similar to a fire station, with some sleeping quarters, a shower, a kitchen,” said RCIPS Inspector Brad Ebanks.
Ebanks says the new marine base site will give police a fairly central location to respond to incidents both on the North Sound and the Grand Cayman cost. He says the boats are not docked on the outer coast of the island because the waves are simply too rough there.
The base building itself is being built on a mound eight feet above sea level, and is constructed to withstand the force of a major hurricane. The height of the building should also mitigate storm surge caused by a hurricane.