Guyana’s National Security Strategy evolving – Pres Ali

…as US$11.5M Metal Shark patrol vessel commissioned

…dedicated to late Colonel Michael Shahoud

With the commissioning of the US$11.5 million Metal Shark Patrol Vessel that arrived in April, President Dr Irfaan Ali has signaled that Guyana’s national security strategy is rapidly evolving to better equip the country to face modern threats.
On Tuesday, the Guyana Defense Force (GDF) Coast Guard officially welcomed the 115 Defiant monohull patrol boat into its ranks. The vessel, which was built by United States-based Metal Shark Boats, will patrol Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The US$11.5 Million Metal Shark Patrol Vessel

Delivering the keynote address, President Ali made it clear that the vessel represented not just the tripling of the GDF’s capital budget, but also the evolution of the country’s national security strategy.
“Guyana’s national security strategy is evolving, to address the dynamic and multi-faceted challenges of the modern era. With particular focus on the protection of the Exclusive Economic Zone. Between 2020 and 2023, we have expended $11.4 Billion in recapitalizing the GDF,” President Ali said.
“Between 2020 and 2023, we invested more than $8 billion in major acquisitions and infrastructural developments of the Air Corps and the Coast Guard. And for this year, we’ve increased the capital expenditure on the force from $3.7 billion in 2023 to $20 billion. This substantial investment reflects our efforts at ensuring that the GDF is well equipped to meet contemporary security challenges.”

President Dr Irfaan Ali during a tour of the vessel

According to President Ali, these security challenges can range from human trafficking to piracy and illegal fishing. He noted that even in cases where diplomacy is used to safeguard Guyana’s territorial integrity, these diplomatic efforts should also be complemented by a robust defense capacity.
“This vessel will enhance our ability to patrol our waters, deter potential security threats, and respond effectively to any incidents that may arise.

Whether the threats are inter-state in nature or involve transnational criminal activity, such as narcotics and human trafficking, piracy or illegal fishing.”
“By equipping our Coast Guard with state-of-the-art surveillance systems, communication tools, and vessels to respond to threats, these investments are crucial for maintaining the security of our waters, safeguarding our economic interest, and upholding the rule of law against those who seek to undermine it,” President Ali said.
The Commander-in-Chief also hailed the legacy left by Colonel Michael Shahoud, one of five GDF officers who lost their lives last year in a helicopter crash and for whom the vessel is named. The other four were Retired Brigadier Gary Beaton; Lieutenant Colonel Sean Welcome; Lieutenant Colonel Michael Charles and Sergeant Jason Khan.
Only two soldiers survived the crash – Corporal Dwayne Jackson and Lieutenant Andio Crawford.
“I want to recognise all of you, but more importantly I want to recognise this significant opportunity that we collectively have and we have taken hold of the opportunity, to name this vessel after one of the finest and most courageous officers to grace the Guyana Defense Force. The late Colonel Michael Shahoud.”
“Shahoud dedicated his life to the defense of our country. And paid the ultimate sacrifice, perishing alongside his esteemed colleagues in that untimely helicopter accident. Their bravery and commitment will never be forgotten,” the Head of State said.
However, US Ambassador to Guyana, Nicole Theriot, lauded the government for taking such a step in being able to ensure it can protect its maritime spaces. According to her, the company that built the boat has also committed to working with the Coast Guard on its modernisation.
“With the commissioning of this near coastal patrol vessel, the GDF will have extended range and advanced capability to conduct maritime patrols along the coast and into the EEZ. The commissioning of the Shahoud signals the government’s commitment to the rule of law and the rules-based international order.”
“With the arrival of this state-of-the-art vessel, Guyana is not just acquiring a physical asset, but Metal Shark will also work with the Coast Guard to operationalize strategic assets. And the company will continue to play a strategic role in the modernisation of the Coast Guard,” Theriot further said.
The patrol vessel was designed by Metal Sharks’ in-house engineering team and constructed at the company’s Franklin, Louisiana, production facility. It now joins the ranks of seven other Metal Shark vessels currently serving in the Coast Guard fleet. It is understood that ranks from the Coast Guard will have to undergo a period of training before the vessel is formally handed over and commissioned into service.
Meanwhile, Chief of Defense, Brigadier Omar Khan had told Guyana Times during an interview back in February that the acquisition of this vessel was a multi-year project as part of efforts to modernise and expand the army to meet future defense and security needs – a huge area of which is to boost its assets.
The Guyana Government has been heavily invested in boosting the country’s defensive capacity. In fact, a significant portion of the $1.146 trillion Budget 2024, from which the GDF alone received $42.2 billion, has gone towards building the technical capability and assets of the local security sector.
Efforts are already underway to procure four new helicopters that will not only be used by the GDF but also the Guyana Police Force. Back in October 2020, the US State Department approved the sale of four helicopters and related equipment to Guyana to the tune of US$256 million. (G-3)