Celebrating the MACC 3rd Anniversary – 1st DISTRICT JDF COAST GUARD

Contributor(s):   Lieutenant (junior grade) Kamala Edwards

Subject:    Recapitalization Jamaica’s Inshore and Offshore Fleet

The Jamaica Defence Force is currently in year five of an eight-year fleet recapitalization program. This program is the largest surface fleet acquisition in the history of the Jamaica Defence Force. In the initial stages the program was geared towards acquiring Offshore Patrol Vessels only. The program has now evolved, having recognized the need for more standard inshore patrol vessels. The acquisition of new surface assets will enable the realization of mission achievement within the large expanse of the Jamaica Defence Force’s Maritime Area of Responsibility.

However, onlookers may grapple with the question of why the Government of Jamaica should continue with this program of fleet recapitalization, given other pressing national priorities. In dissecting the issue at hand, the following must be understood.

1. Jamaica’s location in the Caribbean Sea:

Jamaica is not an island but rather an Archipelagic State as declared by Section 3 of The Maritime Areas Act [of Jamaica] 1996. ‘Jamaica is comprised of one main island and about a half dozen small rocks, islets and cays generally situated about 60 miles south of the main island. Archipelagic straight baselines connect the main island to a rock, Southwest Rock and to a series of small cays, Morant Cays. Morant Cays and Southwest Rock are, in turn, connected by straight lines to Blower Rock’.  From these archipelagic baselines, Jamaica claims its territorial seas, contiguous zone, and exclusive economic zone (EEZ).  Due to Jamaica’s position in the western Caribbean Sea, it is unable to claim a 200 nm EEZ.  It has thus defined its boundaries by negotiation and established potential boundaries where negotiations have not yet been settled.  All told, Jamaica’s maritime claim is 294 276 square kilometers, 26 times the size of the main island which has a landmass of 10 990 km2. 

Our archipelago is located in the western Caribbean basin, astride vital sea-lanes connecting the Caribbean, Central America, Asia and South America to Europe and North America, along with a sustainable commercial fishery, coastal tourism, and offshore emergence renewable and fossil energy supplies. With over 1022 km of coastline, our archipelago’s geographical position and disposition lend itself to profiting from legitimate maritime trade and blue economy development. It is also equally disposed to the illicit exploitation of the maritime space and legitimate maritime activities for nefarious means as well as the rampant exploitation of our natural marine resources.  As a sovereign nation, we must possess the necessary capabilities to protect our vital sea lanes of communication and our natural marine resources consisting of mineral and other non-living resources of the seabed and subsoil and living organisms.

2. The expanse of the Maritime Air and Cyber Command (MACC) Area of Responsibility (AOR) and responsibilities therein:

Notwithstanding Jamaica’s maritime claim of some 294 276 km2, the Maritime Air and Cyber Command (MACC) Area of Responsibility (AOR) is larger at 319,561km2, some 29 times the size of the main island.  (See Figure 1) Within this large expanse of water, the MACC not only treats with traditional and emergent threats such as illegal unregulated and unreported fishing, trafficking of illicit small arms light weapons and ammunition, safeguarding the blue economy, trafficking of illicit narcotics and psychotropic substances, to name a few. The MACC also supports Jamaica’s significant international obligations regarding search and rescue. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) has specified search and rescue regions for which Jamaica is responsible.  In determining the MACC’s AOR and appropriate mix of surface fleet, these threats, interests and responsibilities were duly considered.

As determined by the IMO, Jamaica’s search and rescue region of responsibility (SRR) spans an area of 186,198 km2; the area is some 17 times the size of mainland Jamaica. A Search and Rescue Region of Responsibility (SRR) is “an area of defined dimensions associated with a rescue coordination centre within which search and rescue services are provided.” The rescue coordination centre is located at the Maritime Air Operations Centre in Up Park Camp.

In aviation, a flight information region (FIR) is a specified region of airspace in which flight information services and alerting service (ALRS) are provided. Jamaica’s airspace is generally termed the Kingston Flight Information Region (KFIR) and is subdivided into a number of airspaces that may be controlled, uncontrolled, sovereign and non-sovereign. The Kingston Flight Information Region is some 268 928 km2, approximately 24.5 times the landmass of mainland Jamaica and extends to delegated airspaces over international waters and the Cayman Islands. Over the last decade, the KFIR has processed some 180,000 aircraft annually.

3. The Maritime Air and Cyber Command’s (MACC) mission:

The Maritime Air and Cyber Command’s (MACC) mission, ‘To Provide Military Maritime, Air and Cyber Capabilities to Help Detect, Deter, Mitigate and/or Defeat Threats to Jamaica and/or Its Interests’, is codified in the Force’s overall mission and aims to amongst other things:

            – Preserve peace and security and provide defence for Jamaica.

            – Support national policies and implement the attendant objectives.

Having understood the foregoing, regarding Jamaica’s location in the Caribbean Sea, the expanse of the Maritime Air and Cyber Command (MACC) Area of Responsibility (AOR) and responsibilities therein and the MACC’s mission, there can be no denying that in order for the MACC to achieve its mission and for the JDF Coast Guard to honour their contract with the Jamaican people, the necessary assets must be provided.

The current contract with Damen Shipyards will see the MACC realizing a fleet of six (06) Offshore Patrol Vessels; more specifically, the JDF will acquire four (04) Damen Stan 4207 Offshore Surveillance Vessels and two (02) Damen Fast Crew Supply 5009s. All vessels are capable of crossing the Atlantic Ocean and can carry speed in excess of twenty-two (22) knots. Primarily the vessels are constructed to provide maritime law enforcement capabilities and are outfitted with a daughter craft capable of carrying speed in excess of thirty (30) knots, with robust navigation and communications suites inclusive of satellite services. Depending on the mission set, these vessels are capable of remaining at sea in excess of two (02) weeks and can perform the role of floating command and control centres for operations ashore and at sea.


Fig. 1 Showing Jamaica’s Maritime Areas of Responsibility.

Depending on the mission set, these vessels are capable of remaining at sea in excess of two (02) weeks and can perform the role of floating command and control centres for operations ashore and at sea.

The two (02) Damen Fast Crew Supply vessels will have the additional capability to serve as robust Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief (HADR) platforms. With Jamaica designated by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) as the Sub-Regional Focal Point for the north-western Caribbean, it is only fitting that Jamaica is able to, within its resources, to add significant sealift capability to the Regional Response Mechanism (RRM). This will facilitate the JDF’s ability to deliver timely and coordinated HADR to affected States. The Damen Fast Crew Supply 5009 is capable of carrying troops, fuel, water and dry storage into theatre.

The inshore patrol capability of the MACC has benefited from the introduction of a fleet of standardized vessels in recent years. Inshore patrol vessels are of particular import for operations in and around the littoral zone. Operations in the littorals require small but fast and highly manoeuvrable craft operating in multiples in order to facilitate operational, intercept vessels of interest and reduce fatigue.. Standardization and multiplication of the fleet allow for more efficient training and tasking of inshore patrol vessel operators and maintainers. More significantly, it removes fatigue from the procurement process concerning spares and maintenance products, resulting in more available operational hours from each vessel and higher rates of successful interdictions.

While deterrence is an immeasurable factor, people choose to conform to or contravene the law after considering the advantages or consequences of their actions. It is a consensus amongst scholars that only the irrational or those not deterred by the severity, certainty and celerity of the consequences become offenders. The recapitalization of the MACC’s surface fleet will undoubtedly bring certainty and celerity to maritime law enforcement actions.

By many accounts, there is no accepted sole definition for the concept of maritime security. Widely accepted amongst scholars, however, is that maritime security is freedom from some threats or crimes at sea. Depending on the lens through which it is viewed, these threats will include piracy, military attack, terrorist attacks, unlawful damage to the maritime environment and natural and manmade disasters.  The recapitalization of Jamaica’s inshore and offshore fleet will allow the MACC to cement its role as a multi-mission Formation, exceptionally skilled in maritime constabulary operations. The Formation will have the ability to deny the use of the maritime space with a primary focus on counter-illicit trafficking operations, search and rescue, maritime safety and HADR missions.

Notwithstanding this article’s focus on the recapitalization of the MACC’s surface fleet, one must be reminded that the recapitalization accords with the MACC’s implementation of its maritime domain awareness systems. Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) is the effective understanding of anything associated with the Maritime Domain that could impact the security, safety, economy, or environment. The ability to identify physical threats as early and as distant from Jamaica’s shores as possible will be enabled by the Coastal Surveillance System complemented by other intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment operated by the Jamaica Defence Force Air Wing. Once the data regarding our maritime domain has been collected, fused and analyzed, it must be disseminated as intelligence in such a manner that decision-makers can determine the actions required to achieve an objective. The MACC’s surface fleet is the primary entity with the inherent capability to achieve the objective. Effectively the MACC’s surface fleet is its ‘centre of gravity.’

We are now experiencing the largest capitalization of our surface fleet, and the associated infrastructure development and human resource investments are in train. Combined with force-wide reforms, our current and future capabilities will enable the MACC to detect, deter, mitigate and defeat threats against Jamaica. With most of the MACC’s critical capability decisions made, our airmen, sailors, and special operators must now focus on successfully delivering the outcomes and achieving the mission while sustaining said capabilities. We remain- Semper Vigilante.