Country Listing

Ecuador Table of Contents



The origin of the Ecuadorian navy could be traced to the independence era when British officers in the service of Bolívar assembled a small squadron at Guayaquil. An 1832 congressional decree formally established the navy.

Organization and Equipment


One of the Ecuadorian navy's German-made fast attack craft
Courtesy United States Department of Defense

As of 1988, the navy had a personnel complement of approximately 5,000, including 1,000 marines. Its varied missions included preparing and maintaining the fleet during peacetime for naval operations in wartime; controlling ocean and river communications; protecting territorial waters, the coastline, and rivers; participating in operations in conjunction with other branches of the armed forces; regulating the merchant marine; promoting the development of the naval construction industry; overseeing the installation and maintenance of aids to navigation; and preparing hydrographic charts.

The country was divided into three naval zones. The first, headquartered at Guayaquil, had jurisdiction over the southern provinces and the territorial waters adjacent to the coastal provinces of Manabí, Guayas, and El Oro. The second had authority over the Galápagos archipelago and surrounding territorial seas and operated from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristóbal Island. The third, with headquarters at Quito, had jurisdiction over the northern provinces and the territorial seas adjacent to the coastal province of Esmeraldas. The navy also had bases at Guayaquil, San Lorenzo, Salinas, and Jaramijó.

Operationally, the navy was organized into a destroyer division, a squadron of fast-missile craft, a squadron of corvettes, a submarine squadron, and auxiliary vessels and transports. A naval aviation unit, equipped mainly with light reconnaissance and liaison aircraft, supported the fleet by patrolling territorial seas and coastlines, combating smuggling, and performing logistical tasks. A small coast guard, formed in 1980, controlled maritime traffic, interdicted drug and contraband traffic, and enforced Ecuadorian maritime law. Equipped with twenty coastal patrol craft, most of which were twelve to fifteen meters in length, the coast guard had a personnel strength of 200 as of 1988.

The marines conducted amphibious operations, maintained security of naval bases and detachments, and protected the Trans-Ecuadorian Pipeline terminal and shipping point at Esmeraldas (see fig. 11). Directly subordinate to the naval operations staff, the marines had their headquarters at Guayaquil and were organized into three battalions, consisting of a commando group, a security force, and a support group, based at Guayaquil, in the Galápagos, and in the Oriente. In addition to small arms, the marines were armed with 81mm mortars and 106mm recoilless rifles.

At the time of the navy's formal establishment, naval equipment consisted of one frigate and seven gunboats. During the turbulent years that followed, however, the fortunes of the navy often suffered, and equipment was reduced to a single vessel in 1880. Four years later, the armed forces took the first step in the creation of a modern navy with the launching of the Cotopaxi, a 300-ton gunboat. Well into the twentieth century, the navy's only seagoing units remained the Cotopaxi and the 750-ton torpedo gunboat, Liberator Bolívar.

Ecuador acquired a number of armed yachts and miscellaneous craft from the United States in return for having granted the latter base rights in the Galápagos Islands and at Salinas during World War II. In 1955 Ecuador purchased two older Hunt-class destroyers from Britain; these became the most formidable vessels in the Ecuadorian fleet. A significant expansion took place during the 1970s with the purchase of missile attack craft and two small submarines from the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). In the early 1980s, Ecuador acquired corvettes equipped with Exocet missiles from Italy. The Hunt-class destroyers were retired and were replaced in 1980 by a United States-manufactured Gearing-class destroyer, renamed the Presidente Eloy Alfaro. This destroyer remained the principal surface vessel as of 1989 (see table 21, Appendix).

Data as of 1989

Country Listing

Ecuador Table of Contents