BALTIMORE (WJZ)– The U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica and the Costa Rican ambassador to the U.S. were in South Baltimore Tuesday to celebrate the transfer of two very special patrol ships.
In their glory days, the 110-foot U.S. Coast Guard Cutters were ships used to rescue fishermen, catch drug runner, smugglers and thieves.
The ships were designed for 20 years of use, and now at age 26, the two ships are docked at the Coast Guard Creek and were given a much-needed overhaul.
The traditional U.S. stripes that were on the ships have been replaced by Costa Rican Coast Guard stripes. It’s a part of an $18 million rehab.
The Costa Rican sailors sung their National Anthem as their flag was raised on the ships for the first time.
“It’s very emotional. Very emotional day,” said Roman Macaya Hayes, Costa Rican ambassador to the U.S.
Costa Rica has struggled to patrol its offshore water. Criminals usually fuel up in Costa Rica when heading north.
“They get paid with drugs, not with cash, and so they come back to port with those drugs and have to monetize them so they introduce them into our neighborhoods,” Ambassador Hayes said.
The Costa Rican Coast Guard expects to seize double the drugs it did last year with the addition of the two ships.
The U.S. paid the $18 million to refurbish the ships, and train and equip the Coast Ricans.
“Any once of cocaine that we can keep out of our country is a huge benefit for the United States,” said Sharon Day, U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica.
Th two ships will sail to Costa Rica in the spring.
In recent years, four similar ships have been sold or given to foreign governments and two other were purchased by the environmental group “the Sea Shepherds.”