ABU DHABI // As the domestic security authority prepares to expand its forces across the country, its first coastguard school was inaugurated yesterday by Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior.
The training centre at Al Sadr Port, part of the Critical National Infrastructure Authority (CNIA), will provide students with skills ranging from basic navigation to handling high-speed interceptor boats. "There is no doubt that the CNIA plays an important role in national security, and what the authority has achieved creates competition which will bring general benefit," Sheikh Saif said during the ceremony. The new school would improve security standards, because "one of the most important factors of success is human resources", he added.
The authority used the occasion to launch two new UAE-produced boats that will be used as interceptors to chase hostile vessels. The boats can be fitted with various weapons. "These boats will help us in our missions because they are reliable, they can cope with various environmental circumstances and can stay at sea up to three days," said Brig Gen Pilot Sheikh Ahmad bin Tahnoun Al Nahyan, the president of the CNIA.
One boat is 15 metres long and was produced by the national company MAR Abu Dhabi. The other is 18 metres long and was based on a Turkish model, produced in the UAE in a joint venture. Both boats can travel at up to 70 knots. "We spent a lot of time and research to choose the best boats that we can add to our fleet," Sheikh Ahmad said. "It took us a year to choose and a year and a half to produce."
The authority is also working on establishing an air wing. "Previously, we used to seek help from other air forces, but now our missions have increased and we need our own force to assist in surveillance, search and rescue," Sheikh Ahmad said. The size of the force has not yet been finalised. The training centre offers three courses - a basic maritime course, a medium coxswainship course and an advanced coxswainship course that teaches tactical skills.
"In the advanced course, the students learn how to connect several vessels together for a mission," said Peter Augustus, a trainer at the institute. "They will also learn how to operate the interceptor boat and carry out armed operations." The advanced course will start next month. Twenty students have already gone through the frogman course. In addition to field skills, students are also given courses in English, information technology, UAE history, law and dealing with the public.
Once a student finishes all the courses, he will graduate with 21 credit hours accredited by the Global Maritime Academy of Transportation (GMAT) and can continue studies in any university or with the GMAT itself. The students are assigned to specific units and roles in the CNIA, based on their skills. The coastguards became part of the CNIA last year. The authority was established, upon a presidential decree in May 2007, to protect Abu Dhabi's infrastructure.
Most students will receive training at the authority's training academy first, then move to the coastguard school. The CNIA training academy in Sweihan, formally known as the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Academy, was officially inaugurated last November. This year, the CNIA signed deals worth Dh167 million (US$45m) in training contracts, out of which a deal worth Dh42m was made with the Global Maritime and Transportation School-US Merchant Marine Academy to provide training in operating small craft, along with basic seamanship, survival at sea, search and rescue and maritime security.