NASSAU, The Bahamas —- The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding to counter-piracy between the Governments of The Bahamas and the United States of America will play a critical role in maintaining and/or increasing the country‚Äôs position as a leading global Flag State by strengthening The Bahamas‚Äô enforcement reach in volatile shipping areas such as the coast of Somalia, Minister of Transport and Aviation, the Hon. Glenys Hanna-Martin said.
Mrs. Hanna-Martin said the additional economic and national security benefits from the agreement, should also bode well for The Bahamas.
‚ÄúThis 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,‚Äù Mrs. Hanna-Martin said.
‚ÄúThe 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,‚Äù Mrs. Hanna-Martin added.
The Transport and Aviation Minister said Bahamians should not let the great geographical distance between The Bahamas and Somalia, where pirate attacks cost the world economy more than 14billion dollars over a two year span in 2010 and 2011 ($7billion per year) according to ‚ÄúOceans Beyond Piracy,‚Äù 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 (the last one was in May, 2012), global countries must continue to work together.
Most observers, as a matter of fact, believe that recent partnerships such as the one signed between The Bahamas and the United States, are responsible for the reduction in the number of successful attacks on major commercial ships off the coast of Somalia.
‚ÄúWe are not physically there; we don‚Äôt 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,‚Äù Mrs. Hanna-Martin said.
‚ÄúMr. Kelly (United States Acting Assistant-Secretary for Political-Military Affairs, Mr. Tom Kelly) and I met Monday 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.
‚ÄúThis now puts in place a framework that better guarantees a process in the event of an act of piracy. It‚Äôs a tightening of the enforcement aspect of it; it‚Äôs 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.‚Äù
Minister 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 ‚Äúcompromised and/or threatened by that activity.‚Äù
‚ÄúThis, 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.
‚ÄúThis 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,‚Äù Mrs. Hanna-Martin added.
Secretary Kelly said the counter-piracy agreement not only recognises The Bahamas‚Äô role as a leading Flag State, and as a maritime nation‚Äù but also provides a process by which both countries can deal with some of the issues surrounding global piracy.
‚ÄúSomali 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,‚Äù Mr. Kelly said.
‚ÄúThe 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,‚Äù Secretary Kelly added.