Bahamas signs MOU with US
NASSAU, Bahamas, Jul 12, CMC – The Bahamas government says the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to counter-piracy between The Bahamas and the United States will play a critical role in maintaining as well as increasing the country’s position as a leading global Flag State.
Transport and Aviation Minister Glenys Hanna-Martin said the initiative would also strengthen The Bahamas’ enforcement reach in volatile shipping areas such as the coast of Somalia and that the country could also benefit from additional economic and national security aspects of the agreement.
“This agreement is very important to The Bahamas particularly because we have so many vessels that are potentially at risk and we appreciate the cooperation (with the United States) that I think inures to the benefit of both states,” Mrs. Hanna-Martin said.
“The agreement acknowledges the very serious issue of piracy in specific areas of the globe and it is the fact that we are vulnerable as a Flag State. Where the Americans are involved initially, and it involves a Bahamian-flagged vessel, we have a process of cooperation that will lead to the management of any criminal activities that could impact The Bahamas as a Flag State,” she added.
She said Bahamians should not let the great geographical distance between The Bahamas and Somalia, where pirate attacks cost the world economy more than US$14 billion over the period 2010-11 distract them from the serious nature of piracy and the effect it can have on the Bahamian economy.
Global officials say while there has not been one single successful hijacking of a major commercial vessel off the coast of Somalia in more than a year countries must continue to work together.
They believe that the decline is due to recent partnerships such as the one signed between The Bahamas and the United States.
“We are not physically there; we don’t have enforcement vessels etcetera in that part of the world, but the United States of America has a larger reach and this (agreement) anticipates circumstances in which they are on the frontline of that reach and the processes that will kick in that would reach an agreed process in enforcement,” Mrs. Hanna-Martin said
She said she recently met with the United States Acting Assistant-Secretary for Political-Military Affairs, Tom Kelly “and we agreed that the issue of enforcement is critical because if you have activities of a severe criminal activity that are left unchecked, then it acquiesces a facilitative environment to those persons committing those acts.
“This now puts in place a framework that better guarantees a process in the event of an act of piracy. It’s a tightening of the enforcement aspect of it; it’s collaboration between states as Flagged Ships can be very complex in its profile as those ships can be registered in one country, the crew from another jurisdiction, and the ship geographically somewhere else.”
Mrs Hanna-Martin said almost 90 per cent of trade is done by sea and that it is very critical to global survival that the global economy is not “compromised and/or threatened by that activity.”
“This, therefore, begins a strengthening of pillars of upholding the importance of world trade at sea and the fact that we now have two states cooperating towards that effort, hopefully as we move forward, more states will begin cooperative efforts that will begin to create additional buffers against this sort of thing.
“This agreement anticipates a concession on the jurisdiction point. The United States has the assets. A scenario is they seize the pirates, so the question is where would you prosecute? This agreement allows The Bahamas to concede that jurisdiction point to allow the United States to prosecute,” Mrs. Hanna-Martin added.
Kelly said the counter-piracy agreement not only recognises The Bahamas’ role as a leading Flag State, and as a maritime nation” but also provides a process by which both countries can deal with some of the issues surrounding global piracy.
“Somali pirates over the past several years have terrorised the Indian Ocean and attacked many ships including some ships that are flagged to The Bahamas and the agreement that we signed today provides a process by which The Bahamas and the United States can consider what to do in the event there are future cases in which Bahamian-flagged vessels are attacked by Somali pirates and the United States apprehends those pirates.
“The good news is that multi-lateral cooperation has really set the Somali pirates on the defensive (as) there has not been a successful pirate attack in the Indian Ocean for more than a year which is incredible when you consider that just two years ago there were more than 100 successful attacks in the Indian Ocean,” Kelly added.