In December of last year, the keel was laid for the first of two 375-ton, 198.8-foot Bahamas-class patrol craft for the Royal Bahamas Defence Force at Halter Marine Group, Escatawpa, Mississippi. Under a $26 million contract signed in March 1997, the pair are to be completed during January and March 1999. The Bahamas design is a licensed version of the Vosper International Europatrol 250, and the pair will be the largest units yet built for the Bahamas. With a range of 3,000 nautical miles, a three-week endurance, and a maximum speed of 24 knots, the craft are intended for counternarcotics, search-and-rescue, fisheries and economic exclusion zone patrol duties, and to act as mother ships in support of security operations. They will accommodate 62 persons and will mount a 20-mm gun forward.