Coastal radar station operational

This week saw the final chapter in a long list of broken promises by both the last elected government and the British interim government under former Governor Gordon Wetherell.

The $2.8 million dollar coastal radar station is complete, operators have been trained and it is up and running. Joining Governor Ric Todd at the official opening on Wednesday were officials from the Royal Turks and Caicos Police Force, the US Coast Guard and the Bahamas Defence Force.

The station, which was first spoken about in 2006 during the PNP administration, never went forward. It was discovered by Governor Wetherell, however, that the hardware for the station had been purchased but not paid for and was placed in storage seemingly out of sight and out of mind. Then followed a series of promised completion dates.

Now four years later and a little more than one year after Wetherell turned over his post to Todd, the important installation is complete and up and running. A two-person team of operators will man the station day and night and interact with police and coast guard officials.

Todd said: “While we celebrate the radar station’s completion the public needs to be mindful that this is not a silver bullet to solve the problems of illegal immigration… because of our location we are a target for illegal immigration.”

Todd’s words rang true as the night before the station officially began operations a Haitian sloop landed on Provo. Only a man and woman are reported to have been taken into custody. It is thought that many others exited the boat and are hiding.

The TCI system has been designed for a maritime environment and provides a cost effective contribution to securing the territory’s borders boosting the work of immigration and customs officials, the police marine unit and maritime patrol aircraft. It uses short pulse, dual band, X-band frequencies to detect and track a variety of marine objects in all weather conditions. It employs five Turks and Caicos Islanders as site supervisor and radar operators.

Located in the South Dock area on the island of Providenciales the radar site was chosen due to its proximity to the waters around West Caicos and French Cay, the busiest waterways around the Islands, and because it was on government owned Crown Land.

“The new radar station is an effective tool for assisting the TCI in many ways,” said Todd, “and the UK is delighted that its $340,000 contribution to the costs of establishing this facility will be money well spent. Its data will support a wide range of government functions, from search and rescue operations, to environment monitoring and disaster management. It will assist in improving the TCI’s ports management and operations too.

“I am certain that our regional partners will appreciate our better integration and contribution to security with the Bahamian and US authorities, for example. With the TCI being an active contributing member of the international community in this way, I am certain that this nation’s influence can only expand.”

“The radar system was first conceived to help stop illegal sloops from landing in the TCI in 2006,” said Clara Gardiner, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Border Control and Labour. “At that time the government was spending over $600,000 per year to repatriate illegal persons.

“We are confident that as word of our new capacity in detecting and monitoring vessels and their movements in and around our waters grows, that the system will see costs associated with such repatriations reduce significantly. This can only be to the further benefit of the people of the TCI as the monies saved can be spent in other priority areas of the new incoming elected government.”

The radar system consists of:

• 40 meter (131 ft.) galvanized, lattice tower sitting on a specially designed foundation

• 5.5 meter (18 ft.) reflector antenna that sends and receives radar signals

• Equipment cabin – houses the electronics specifically designed to operate in a marine environment. These units process radar signals and send them to the monitoring stations

• Monitoring cabin – houses the monitoring stations.

• Standby generator – automatically provides power in event that the normal electrical power fails.