Government will be moving to increase personnel assigned to the Cayman Islands Coast Guard in the new year.

Police Commissioner Derek Byrne, speaking in Finance Committee last week, said the organisation that has been charged with patrolling Cayman’s waters and has responsibility for search and rescue continues to grow.

Byrne, following questions on staffing from Bodden Town West MLA Chris Saunders, said the aim for 2020 is to recruit between nine and 13 people with maritime certifications for the newly formed agency.

Byrne said he intends to seek “primarily Caymanians” to fill the posts.

The Coast Guard, an initiative pushed by Premier Alden McLaughlin, was borne out of recommendations of a UK report on local search-and-rescue capabilities. The report was triggered after Gary Mullings, Edsell Haylock, Nicholas Watler, and children Kamron Brown, 11, and his brother Kanyi, 9, were lost at sea in 2016, after which Cayman’s search and rescue mechanisms came under the microscope.

North Side MLA Ezzard Miller advocated for Coast Guard funding to be separated from the police budget.

He also stressed the need for regulations for boats more than 25-feet long and with engines capable of delivering more than 50 horsepower. He described experiencing near misses while out on the water one recent evening.

Miller, who had successfully passed a motion for boat safety regulations in the LA, questioned when those regulations will be implemented.

Coast Guard Commander Robert Scotland agreed there was an urgent need for regulations. He said the legal drafting committee and the Maritime Authority of the Cayman Islands are working to introduce commercial and domestic vessel safety standards.

As it stands, there are rules under the Port Authority Law that can be used, but Scotland said the problem with that is there are no associated penalties.

Miller also raised a question about the lack of enforcement when it comes to party vessels dispensing alcohol and playing loud music within a quarter mile of shore. He said he has seen it happen at Rum Point on Sundays with boats coming from the West Bay peninsula.

Scotland said enforcement is not as stringent as it should be, but once the resources and budget are assigned to the Coast Guard, patrols will be stepped up.

Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell questioned whether the Coast Guard intends to patrol Stingray City and the Sandbar.

Scotland said it will be patrolling the wildlife interaction zones, such as Stingray City, as well as other recreational areas like Rum Point.

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