FRIDAY, APRIL 20: A new sea-going force of soldiers will help crack down on drugs and guns, Minister for National Security Wayne Perinchief said today.

The new full-time boat troop will take over the routine patrol duties of the Bermuda Police marine unit – releasing officers for other duties.

Mr Perinchief said it would cost between $1.5 million and $2 million to operate a full-time Regiment presence on the water – but that the cost would still be up to $700,000 less than employing the equivalent number of police officers for marine work.

He added” While the initial outlay to raise, equip and train the force is significant, the long-term costs favour the Regiment.”

Mr Perinchef told the House of Assembly that the permanent boat troop would work with the police, Customs, border control and Marine and Ports for maximum effectiveness.

He added: “An operations centre headed by the agreed lead agency would need to be indentified and regular, formalized inter-agency briefing and intelligence-sharing would be required.”

Mr Perinchief said the soldiers would need to be given powers to board and search vessels, carry non-lethal weapons and arrest offenders.

He added the boat troop would carry out inshore patrols, 24-hour standby search and rescue missions, carry out safety checks on boats and police major maritime events.

And the sea-going soldiers would also act in support of Customs, police, the Fire Service and the Department of Fisheries in joint operations.

Mr Perinchief said: “A uniformed, disciplined force dedicated to protecting the inshore waters is a clear demonstration of the Government’s commitment to protect those who use the waterways, while at the same time strengthening drug and gun interdiction capabilities.

“A Coastguard-style organization such as this is widely accepted in other similar jurisdictions and should present few issues for Bermuda.”