While crime exists in the Caribbean, as it does everywhere in the world, several incidents early this year brought safety and security issues back to the front burner. The good news is that everyone from island governments to marina operators and yachtsmen themselves are enacting strategies and solutions to keep mariners, and each other, safe.
The importance of tackling crime and criminal behavior in general is a high priority for all the governments of the region, says Keats Compton, the St. Lucia-based president of the Marine Industries Association of St. Lucia (MIASL) and the Caribbean Marine Association (CMA). “This is because, apart from the impact on societies in general, the economic impact on what are mainly tourism economies can be devastating. At the regional level, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) has hosted a couple of conferences to discuss best practices on yachting safety and security. We expect that the major marina developments within the region will raise the profile of the sector, enabling associations to get the necessary traction to become a more effective lobby.”
Major marinas and marine associations have already implemented safety and security strategies as part of their overall operations.
For example, says Clyde Rawls, general manager for Camper & Nicholson’ Port Louis Marina, St. George’s, Grenada, “We have in-house security 24/7; heaviest coverage is at night. We have officers posted at key access points to the docks, and whenever there is a function such as a regatta or party we have additional security brought in, usually police officers.”
Rawls continues, “We are in the process of installing HD CCTV cameras throughout the property, with pan/tilt/zoom capabilities. We are currently working with the Grenada Coast Guard to provide them a berth for their operations, providing our marina, and the port area of St George’s, an obvious presence on the waterfront.”
The Dominica Marine Association, says President Hubert Winston, “through support from the Special Framework of Assistance (SFA), a tourism sector development program funded under the European Union SFA 2006 and the Dominica Marine Center, dealer for Mercury Marine, has come together to procure a ‘Security, Search and Rescue’ vessel and a security dinghy for the Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security (PAYS). The Valiant DR490 is a built tough vessel that can handle most calls of duty while keeping our shores safe for locals as well as passersby. This vessel will be used to provide support to the Dominica Coast Guard for search and rescue missions as well as providing surveillance to Dominica’s waters and bays. A second vessel will be introduced at the same time, a smaller D-230 for short distance security watch within the Portsmouth bay area.”
Meanwhile in Antigua, John Duffy, president of the Antigua & Barbuda Marine Trade Association, says, “Following numerous meetings with government bodies and the police together with recommendations from over 20 yacht skippers, we are implementing a number of actions in the English Harbour and Falmouth areas.”
These actions include an increase in the number of police based at the Dockyard Police Station, regular foot and vehicle patrols by police and Antigua & Barbuda Defense Force, improvement to street lighting, clearing of overhanging foliage from pavement areas, CCTV cameras installed with full CCTV coverage as soon as practical, a stop and search procedure of suspicious persons and vehicles but to be done without impinging on the free movement of the majority of our visitors, greater marina security, and the activation of Crimestoppers, which is a completely anonymous way of reporting crime at www.crimestoppersantigua.com or on 800 (TIPS) 8477).”
Individual CMA country marine trade associations continue to lobby governments to allocate more resources to marine police/coast guard units to address water-borne threats, says Compton. “Mega-yachts are less vulnerable than smaller cruisers; there hasn’t been a reported case of a mega-yacht boarding, but cruisers have been. In response, the MIASL has established a Safety & Security Committee comprising Customs, Land, Ports and Marine Police and the Soufriere Marine Management Association, to advise authorities on introducing yachting specific measures; introduced a help line located at the Marine Police base, accessible 24/7 by dialing “HELP” (4375 – freefall) on any cell phone or landline; VHF radios are being introduced at coastal police stations, in addition to Ch.16 watches at Vigie and Moule-a-Chique lighthouses; billboards with safety tips were erected at anchorages and marinas.”
Speaking for the Caribbean Marine Association, Compton says, “We wish to reassure the industry that the region is still relatively safe, and will continue to become more so.”