Safeboat Handing Over and Commissioning Ceremony

Official Handing Over and Commissioning Ceremony of the 410 Apostle Interceptor Police Vessel

Lisa A. Johnson, Chargé d’Affaires, a.i.

Good Afternoon. Minister Nottage, Acting Commissioner Ferguson, I would like to begin by saying how happy I am to be able to officially present and hand over this, the second, 41-foot Safe Boat Apostle Marine Interceptor to the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

This state-of-the art vessel is being transferred to the Marine Support Unit of the Royal Bahamas Police Force to increase its operational capacity to participate in interdiction operations under Operation Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, known as OPBAT.

The United States, The Bahamas, and Turks and Caicos enjoy a long-standing history of counternarcotics cooperation under OPBAT, and — as the handover of this latest high-speed interceptor vessel will attest — we are proud to continue to support RBPF participation in this collaborative anti-trafficking effort through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, or CBSI.

Under CBSI, the United States and the nations of the Caribbean are working together to combat the drug trade and other transnational crimes that threaten regional security.  This partnership fulfills President Barack Obama’s commitment to deepen regional security cooperation made at the Fifth Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago in 2009.

Now, five years later, CBSI has invigorated our partnership with the Caribbean at the strategic level and infused our bilateral partnership with additional resources to make ambitious and needed investments in security capabilities — like our investment in the RBPF’s marine readiness.

It is our hope that this vessel will improve on OPBAT’s already solid track record of narcotics seizures.  I’m going to lay down a challenge because, in 2014, OPBAT operations in The Bahamas led to the seizure of:

  • over 1,500 (fifteen hundred) kilograms of cocaine,
  • over 1,446,000 (one million four hundred forty-six thousand) pounds of marijuana,
  • 738,000 (seven-hundred and thirty-eight thousand) marijuana plants, more than any previous years on record,
  • 32 kilograms of hashish,
  • more than 3 pounds of heroin, and
  • more than 17 pounds of ecstasy,
  • all resulting in more than 90 arrests.

It is no wonder that the senior-level U.S. Interdiction Committee traveled to Nassau in November 2014 to present the first-ever U.S. Interdiction Coordinator Award in the Joint Operations category to OPBAT.  Our joint work in countering trafficking is world-class.

With the addition of this advanced marine vessel, I expect more record-breaking years.  At the very least, we know this plus-up of marine resources will act as a deterrent to drug traffickers.  So impressive is this vessel, I am told that when it was delivered into RBPF custody in Ft. Lauderdale, people arrived out of nowhere to marvel at the boat.  Local law enforcement officers were so envious of how customized this vessel is, the Marine Support Unit practically had to sneak the Safe Boat out of Florida to bring her home to The Bahamas.

But in all seriousness, I am delighted to present the Royal Bahamas Police Force with this spectacular new vessel.  This boat represents the culmination of more than a year of collaborative work between the RBPF, the Embassy’s International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Section, and SafeBoats International, a U.S. manufacturer of law enforcement-specific vessels.

This vessel — like the one dedicated in Freeport in 2013 — was built from the ground-up according to requirements and specifications outlined by the RBPF.  I commend the efforts of all the essential players on this project, which will bring additional capabilities to our joint efforts to tackle illicit trafficking.

In this spirit, I would like to take a moment to recognize the Ministry of National Security, Commissioner Greenslade, Acting Commissioner Ferguson, and the officers of the Marine Support Unit for their dedication to the project.  Thank you.

As we continue upon our path of partnership, collaboration, and cooperation under CBSI, the U.S. Mission to The Bahamas looks forward to working hand-in-hand with our Bahamian counterparts to substantially reduce illicit trafficking, to increase public safety and security, and to promote social justice.

Thank you.