Good morning. Today I am delighted to officially present two 41-foot Apostle Marine Interceptors, built by SafeBoats International, to the Government of The Bahamas.
These state-of-the art vessels are being transferred to the Marine Support Services Unit of the Royal Bahamas Police Force to increase its capacity for interdiction operations under Operation Bahamas, Turks and Caicos (or OPBAT).
Those of you assembled today know that the United States and The Bahamas enjoy a long-standing history of counter-narcotics cooperation under OPBAT. As the handover of these high-speed interceptor vessels attests, we are proud to continue to support RBPF participation in OPBAT through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI).
Today’s ceremony marks a milestone in our investment in RBPF maritime operational readiness. These new boats are the last of four vessels procured for the Marine Support Services Unit and will be stationed at OPBAT bases throughout the Bahamian archipelago.
The first of the four vessels was delivered in January 2013 and is stationed in Freeport, Grand Bahama. The second was delivered in February 2015 and is stationed right here in Nassau. The third and fourth vessels, being presented today, are destined for Georgetown, Exuma and Matthew Town, Great Inagua.
As part of this project, we also have provided boat lifts, trucks, and trailers to support the safety and maintenance of these resources. Finally, to promote sustainability in the deployment of and care for the vessels, training for the Marine Support Services Unit with SafeBoats International will take place next month in Nassau.
We expect that these vessels will build further on OPBAT’s already solid track record of seizing illicit narcotics. In 2015, OPBAT operations in The Bahamas led to the seizure of 637 kilograms of cocaine and 26.6 metric tons of marijuana, including over 17,000 marijuana plants, and resulted in the arrest of 76 drug traffickers.
Our joint work in countering trafficking continues to produce tangible results, including the seizure of 266 kilograms of cocaine in Freeport and Inagua earlier this month, and the seizure of 580 kilograms of cocaine in Bimini in December. With two more vessels deployed, I hope to hear about additional record-breaking interdictions, including in maritime operations in Exuma and Inagua.
I’m pleased today to present these spectacular new vessels to the Royal Bahamas Police Force. These boats represent the culmination of three years of collaboration between the RBPF, the Embassy’s International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Section, and SafeBoats International. They were built from the ground up according to requirements outlined by the RBPF.
I commend the effort of all the essential players on this project, and would like to take a moment to recognize the Ministry of National Security, Commissioner Greenslade, the officers of the Marine Support Unit — in particular, ASP Adderley and ASP Osborne — and SafeBoats International for their dedication to this project. Thank you.
I’m looking forward to seeing these vessels out on the water, so I will just close by saying that the U.S. Mission looks forward to continuing our work with The Bahamas under CBSI and OPBAT to reduce illicit trafficking, increase public safety and security, and promote social justice.