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Jamaica, US to update Shiprider Agreement


Jamaica, US to update Shiprider Agreement
Kamina Johnson-Smith. (Internet image)

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Kingston  – The Governments of Jamaica and the United States of America (US) are close to finalising improved operational protocols pertaining to the Shiprider Agreement, under which both countries cooperate to curtail illicit maritime drug trafficking, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith has disclosed.

She said that following several exchanges of proposals and counter-proposals, a consensus is near.

“With this latest round of exchanges now concluded, both sides have found agreement on the majority of proposed protocols. A meeting is now being scheduled between us parties to iron out the handful of issues where there still remains a difference of opinion,” the minister said.

Johnson Smith, who is also Leader of Government Business in the Senate, noted that the timely responses and the constructive engagement have maintained the spirit of cooperation between the parties “and have provided some optimism that we will finalize these protocols within a reasonably short period of time”.

“These operational protocols are, at their core, aimed at improving the flow of information between the parties at critical stages in the process. The ultimate aim of these protocols is to put the Government of Jamaica in the best position possible to do two main things . . . to further enable us to take strong and effective action to put a serious dent in the illicit uses of our maritime areas and… to improve our ability to protect the interests of our citizens who may be intercepted at sea pursuant to the Shiprider Agreement,” she explained.

Senator Johnson Smith said that the Government was committed to achieving both goals, especially given the fact that the country’s vast maritime area, which is almost 25 times that of its land mass, is exploited for trafficking in guns and drugs.

“Cooperation with our international partners is, therefore, not only important, it is necessary if we want to achieve any meaningful and sustainable reduction in serious crime in Jamaica,” she said.

Work to establish new operational procedures regarding the implementation of the Shiprider Agreement arose out of the case of the Jamaican-registered vessel “Lady Lawla” with four Jamaican men onboard, which was intercepted by the US Coastguard in October 2020, pursuant to that Agreement.

Jamaica entered into the Shiprider Agreement in 1997, which was brought into force by the passage of the Maritime Drug Trafficking (Suppression) Act, 1998. This Act has since been amended twice – in 2004 and 2016.

The agreement sought further cooperation in deterring the movement of illicit drugs through Jamaican territorial waters from South America to the US. It further allows for cooperation in ship boarding, ship riding and overflight.

In addition, US Coast Guard law-enforcement detachments operating from specific foreign government ships will be able to board suspected ships in Jamaican waters. It also speeds up the provision of technical assistance, including drug detection technology between the countries and puts a framework in place for the exercise of jurisdiction in each nation’s continuous zone.

It also ensures greater protection for civil aircraft, including an agreement that neither the US nor Jamaica will use force against civil aircraft in flight. (CMC)