Two senior U.K. officers have been drafted to help the Cayman Islands create a new coastguard and border protection agency.

The islands’ search-and-rescue capability has been under scrutiny since five boaters, including two children, went missing after their boat capsized off the coast of Grand Cayman in March, 2016.

That incident sparked a pair of inquiries, including a root-and-branch examination of the islands’ ability to cope with major incidents at sea.

That report, carried out by the U.K. Maritime and Coastguard Agency earlier this year, recommended increased investment in boats and Jet Skis for marine patrols and advised that firefighters be seconded to support the understaffed marine police unit.

Now a U.K. coastguard commander has been brought in to help implement its recommendations, which also included using drones for marine searches and establishing a volunteer “dive response network” for scuba incidents.

The commander, Phil Bostock, will be on island from January on a one-year contract to oversee the creation of the Cayman Islands Coastguard.

Colin Brown, head of Border Force U.K.’s National Targeting Centre, will also arrive in early January for six months to oversee the modernization of immigration and customs procedures at Cayman’s borders and to advise on the creation of an integrated “Cayman Islands Border Protection Service.”

Premier Alden McLaughlin said equipping and funding a new border protection service and coastguard is a priority and government has partnered with the governor’s office to bring in the necessary expertise to get it done.

He said, “It is a vital step forward in our work to counter illegal immigration and organized crime, including the smuggling of weapons and drugs. Improvements to the coordination of search-and-rescue services will also make it safer for everyone to enjoy our amazing natural marine resources.”

Governor Helen Kilpatrick added, “The Premier and I are committed to the modernisation and improvement of the Cayman Islands security including the safety of people at sea. These projects mark the start of this journey and we are grateful to Border Force and the MCA for providing us with experienced officers to help guide and shape the structures that we intend to develop. We also have an experienced and dedicated local team that will oversee this work and I would like to thank them for their commitment and work so far.”

A steering committee, chaired by Wesley Howell, chief officer in the Ministry of Human Resources and Immigration, and including the Commissioner of Police, the head of the governor’s office and the heads of customs and immigration, has been set up to oversee both initiatives.

If you value our service, if you have turned to us in the past few days or weeks for verified, factual updates, if you have watched our live streaming of press conferences or sent an article to a friend... please consider a donation. Quality local journalism was at risk before the coronavirus crisis. It is now deeply threatened. Even a small amount can go a long way to sustaining our mission of informing the public. We need our readers’ financial support now more than ever.