Monday, March 17, 2014

The Dragon is Starting To Nibble At Our Own Heels

China To Sell Long Range Border Patrol Vessel to TRINIDAD TOBAGO

Photo by the Japanese Coast Guard
 The U.S. Coast Guard's smaller patrol vessels are all built on the U.S. Gulf Coast which is full of smaller ship yards that produce fast crew boats, offshore supply vessels, tugs, gaming boats, ferries, and smaller military vessels. These yards produced everything from PT boats to landing craft in WWII and the swift boats of Vietnam. Smaller military patrol boats built in South East Louisiana can travel on their own hull to Trinidad Tobago in about two days. That fact alone is a cost shaver when considering where to buy a relatively high endurance, long range patrol boat. The Gulf Coast yards are sufficiently cost effective that in recent years both African and French customers have bought off shore oil field service vessels there when they could have bought anywhere in the world. So our Caribbean neighbors Trinidad and Tobago were feeling the need for a long range patrol craft and bought from .....China. 

 Why does Trinidad and Tobago need a long range patrol craft? They are having increasing difficulty combating arms and drug smugglers. This is a concern they share with the United States and a concern they are usually cooperative with the U.S. Coast Guard on. We should be happy that the Islands are beefing up their maritime border control capabilities. But the occasion is marred by the dragon on our doorstep. 

 According to The Trinidad Express Kamala Persad-Bissessar the Prime Minister of Trinidad Tobago asked to purchase one of two such vessels being built in China right now for the expanding Chinese Coast Guard during a recent visit to China. Chinese Premier, Li Keqiang, almost immediately agreed to sell one to Trinidad Tobago and it was announced that the two countries would sit down and discuss the price shortly. You can bet the Dragon didn't intend to sell at a profit. The truth is China has been becoming more and more of an influence in Trinidad Tobago for nearly 40 years. Shortly China will provide assistance or be the main contractor on the following projects:

1) Construction and design of six new Economic Zones in Trinidad and Tobago.

2) Development of a trans-shipment Port and Dry Dock in South Trinidad.

3) Early processing of a loan agreement with the China Exim Bank so these projects can be expedited.

4) Construction of two new hospitals.

5) Removal of asphalt from the Pitch Lake in greater capacities.

China already owns the operations management company running the Panama Canal and is working in concert with Nicaragua to build an alternative to the Panama Canal. China is the main banker for Cuba, and is becoming the dominant sponsor for Trinidad Tobago. While we are trying to help Japan and the Philippines with the retention of their exclusive economic zones in the face of Chinese aggression, the Dragon is working just to our south to limit our sea mobility. Yet we keep shrinking naval, Coast Guard budgets. It really is time for a Congressional accounting to the American people.



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