Over a one month period, the BVI government racked up a $360,000 bill for two barges which it hired to secure the territory’s sea borders by serving as radar platforms.
At its February 17 Cabinet meeting, leaders retroactively approved the sum to be paid to EZ Shipping Limited which had provided the two barges for the period from December 23, 2020, to January 22, 2021.
This means that each day, the two barges together cost the BVI roughly $11,600.
The government hired barge operators last year to use their radar equipment to assist in detecting smuggling activity.
And at its recent Cabinet meeting, the government defended the spending, noting that “the previous contract with EZ Shipping Limited resulted in improved border security measures that are quantitatively successful in deterring illicit border activity.”
The government also said the presence of the barges has resulted in reduced traffic in the BVI’s waters.
“The BVI is working assiduously towards finalisation of a Sea Border Protection Plan to include long-term solutions,” Cabinet indicated.
Last year, some sections of the public decried the hiring of the barges saying the spending was unnecessary especially since the territory was struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic.
There was also more public outcry after Opposition legislator Melvin ‘Mitch’ Turnbull said he received information that the government was paying nearly $20,000 per day for each barge.
Premier Andrew Fahie had quickly rebuffed these claims.
When border security issues began affecting the BVI last year, former Governor Augustus Jaspert had invited UK navy ship HM Medway to secure the territory’s borders.
Commissioner of Police told BVI News HM Medway is permanently deployed to the Caribbean.
“We anticipate it will assist us again this year with border security when in this area,” the Commissioner said.
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