The Dutch islands in the Caribbean region became part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the 17th century. As each island had its particular history, seeing treating the islands as a single entity has always been frowned upon by its inhabitants. Whilst Curacao and Bonaire find their history in slave trade, Aruba history is linked to indigenous Arawak people, whilst St Maarten, Saba and Statia (St. Eustatius) are linked with their common anglo-speaking neighbours, all of them switched hands between Dutch, English and Spanish governments many times. However, the Dutch Caribbean used to be a single entity, actually it was named the Netherlands Antilles until 1986. It contained all Dutch islands in the Caribbean region, until Aruba became an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands that year.
The Netherlands Antilles continued to exist as an entity until October 2010, when both Curacao and St.Maarten followed Aruba’s example and became autonomous constituent countries within the Kingdom. The smaller islands, Bonaire, Saba and Statia choose the status of special municipalities of The Netherlands, thus strengthening their ties with the motherland. As for Aruba, Curacao and St.Maarten, their autonomy allows them complete self-governance, apart from Defense and International Relations, which are responsibilities of the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard
In 1995, the Netherlands and the Dutch Caribbean, the latter consisting of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba by that time, agreed to join hands and found a Coast Guard for the Dutch Caribbean region, by signing the Rijkswet Kustwacht into law. Growing concerns over the flow of narcotics passing through the Caribbean waters, for which the Caribbean islands are used as a hub to destinations in Europe and the United States, and increase of waterways for both trade and tourism, instigated the foundation of a dedicated maritime police force around the islands. From 1996, the Kustwacht van de Nederlandse Antillen en Aruba (KWNA&A) came into effect. From the start, assets and personnel from local police services were incorporated, and the presence of the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN) in Curacao proved to be very helpful. Not only did Parera Naval Base provide the Headquarters for the newborn CGNA&A, as it became known in English, naval aircraft were tasked with coast guard duties around the island. By that time, the RNLN usually had three P-3C Orion martime patrol aircraft deployed to Hato, Curacao, whilst a Lynx-helicopter on board of the West-Indies Guard Ship, an RNLN frigate deployed to the Caribbean, and both were increasingly tasked with coast guard missions.
However, late 2004, due to ongoing budget constraints, the RNLN retired its fleet of Orions, despite a consistent demand in the Caribbean region. Interim solutions were found with the Royal Air Force, which provided a Nimrod for maritime patrol missions, awaiting the modification of two RNLAF Fokker 60s with a search radar. Both options were short-lived however, and a permanent solution was sought to contract maritime surveillance missions to a commercial provider. From 2007 on, Provincial Airlines from St.John’s, Canada, provides two specially modified Dash 8 aircraft and the operation of Hato Militair, as the Naval Air Station was known, was taken over by the coast guard, thus becoming Substation Hato (Steunpunt Hato in Dutch). To ensure a great endurance, both Dash 8s have been equipped with additional fuel tanks, next to their powerful radar and sensors. The aircraft are tasked with reconnaissance and Search & Rescue duties in the Dutch SAR-area which covers a large chunk of southern Caribbean waters.
Since 1996, the RNLN leased a single AS355 Twin Squirrel helicopter, based at Hato, Curacao, which initial main tasking was rotary-wing pilot training. However, Search and Rescue duties were performed as well and after RNLN pilot training was reorganized, the coast guard took over the contract with HeliHolland. By 2012, the AS355 was up for replacement and a new contract was awarded to FBHeliservice, now Cobham, from the United Kingdom, which deployed two Agusta AW139 helicopters to Hato to ensure 24/7 helicopter operations for the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard (DCCG), as the coast guard became known after the Netherlands Antilles were dissolved in 2010.