Work has begun at a dockyard in Italy on the largest investment ever entered into by the Maltese army: a large patrol boat costing around €50 million. The plan is for this boat to enter into service in two years and in this way we can continue to strengthen the resources of the Maritime Squad when it does its rounds and carries out its work out at sea far away from the Maltese islands.
Cantiere Navale Vittoria, a company located in the north of Italy, has won the contract to build this boat. With 90 years of experience in this sector, the company has built its reputation on boats and vessels used in search and rescue operations by disciplinary forces in a number of Mediterranean countries. The contract has been made possible through European funds.
The Commanding Officer of the AFM, Brigadier Jeffrey Curmi said, ”this is the largest investment we have ever made. We are talking about a boat which costs around €50m, €48m and the work on it has already started.”
He explained that the project also includes a training programme, so that by the time the boat arrives in Malta, a competent crew will be ready to use it and know how to carry out maintenance on it.
”We already have a plan of who will be going to the dockyard where it is being built; this includes a number of engineers and technicians to confirm the work and form part of the project. So one can imagine how useful this will be when it comes here, because of our technicians who would have been present while it was being built,” Brigadier Curmi pointed out.
The Maritime Squad is mostly mentioned in cases of illegal immigration and sea rescue operations, but Brigadier Curmi said that apart from this, the army also has boats doing their rounds around the Maltese islands 24/7, on work related to enforcement and fighting crime. This requires coordination and co-operation with other entities such as the Police, Customs, and the Fisheries Department.
”We might be collecting information for ourselves as well as other disciplinary forces, we would be planning, and discussing with other entities on the best way to carry out an operation. Sometimes a sea operation might be the best solution and at other times it is not.”
The Army will also be increasing its presence at sea in the north of Malta. In Gozo, where the army has a boat and a dinghy based at Mgarr harbour, there will be the first group of divers to ever be based on Gozo. Brigadier Curmi said that the soldiers who will be fulfilling this role have been chosen and are being professionally trained so that they will be qualified in the rescue of people who find themselves in difficulties at sea. They will form part of the Bomb Disposal Unit so that in case of an emergency they can carry out work related to explosives and fireworks.