Belize hosts US Navy Ship: Anchors Aweigh!
Belize’s deep water Port of Big Creek down in the Toledo District hosts US Navy Ship; has seen a lot of maritime activity over the years, from the large Maya seagoing canoes that plied the coastal trade routes, to Spanish Galleons, the odd pirate (or to be more polite, privateer or buccaneer) ship, WWII vessels and, as the port grew, larger container ships to carry sugar and other produce.
But the USNS Spearhead still managed to turn heads when it arrived in Big Creek the first week of June this year, with some locals wondering what it’s all about.
Why are they here?
Don’t worry, this nautical wonder is here to use its powers for good, marking the start of the US “Southern Partnership Program” in Belize, which is a US Naval deployment working with Belizean counterparts in port security, technical and medical support, patrol operations, operational risk management and other areas.
According to PGTV, the US Navy’s Mission Commander for the program said that some 100 naval personnel will set up a camp next to the Belize Defence Force base in PG, as Punta Gorda is affectionately known, to assist with, among other things, work on the barracks. US Navy medical teams are also slated to visit different communities in the area and in Ladyville to help out in local clinics.
With the US Military’s recent “New Horizons” program also assisting villages in medical care, Belize seems to be the beneficiary of a stronger US presence in the region.
And let’s not forget the recent confirmation of Carlos R Moreno as US Ambassador to Belize, a choice we applauded due to Mr Moreno’s impressive legal credentials and personal history. Yes, Washington DC seems to be taking little Belize seriously these days.
The USNS Spearhead
As for the USNS Spearhead, she’s a relatively new ship, having been christened on 17 September 2011 as the first of the new Spearhead-class Joint High Speed Vessels.
She’s an interesting craft, looking like something out of a seagoing Star Wars episode, built to a modular design that allows her to be rapidly refitted with various equipment within a 20,000 square feet (1,900 m2) bay to accommodate the needs of whatever mission she’s on. These are meant to be non-combat missions such as transportation of troops and/or equipment.
For you naval buffs, Spearhead is 103 metres (338 ft) long and 28.5 metres (94 ft) in beam, and has a draft of 3.83 metres (12.6 ft) with space for 41 crewmembers, although usually sails with 22. There are sleeping accommodations for up to 150 people and an additional 312 seats for troop transport, if needed.
She’s fast for her size as well, with a maximum speed of 43 knots (49 mph) and a service speed of 35 knots (40 mph), and can carry a helicopter.
Spearhead should fit right in with what is known as Belize time, as she was formally delivered to the navy eight months late and $31 million over budget (OK, we couldn’t resist).
But in all seriousness, we want to welcome the Spearhead and her US Naval personnel to our shores and wish them a happy and productive stay. Anything that supports health care in Belizean villages and gives our children a better access to medical care is good news in our book.
The US Navy said that the contingent would remain in Belize until the end of July, while the Spearhead heads back to sea.