U.S. donates boats, communications gear to Bahamas

The United States government continued to demonstrate its commitment to the security of the Bahamas by donating three high-speed boats and communications equipment to the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) to aid interdictions at sea.

The U.S. $5.9 million donation in June 2021 further solidified an already robust security relationship. “We’re here celebrating a long and lasting partnership,” U.S. Charge d’Affaires Usha E. Pitts said during a ceremony at the RBDF headquarters at Coral Harbour Base, according to a report by U.S. Embassy Nassau. “Your [Bahamas] security is our security, and vice versa,” she added. “We and the Bahamas have a shared history, shared values, and we both enjoy the fruits of democracy.”

The donation included two 44-foot SAFE boats and one 33-foot SAFE boat. SAFE stands for secure all-round flotation-equipped boats. Made by U.S. boat-maker SAFE Boats International, the vessels can be modified for military applications, including the addition of armor, gun mounts, remote weapons mounts and integrated tactical communications. (Pictured: A 44-foot SAFE boat donated by U.S. Northern Command to the Bahamas demonstrates its maneuvering capabilities off the coast of New Providence near the headquarters of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force.)

The U.S. Embassy said the boats would primarily be used for open-ocean interdiction to stem drug trafficking and illegal immigration. Additional donated equipment included long-range communications for patrol vessels and land communication systems, Harris radios and spare parts to augment the Bahamian force’s existing Harris radio system.

The U.S. also provided another radio system that will allow inter-island communication. A system is currently set up between Great Inagua and New Providence, and it will be expanded to the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama.

The donation of biometrics collection kits and forensics equipment will allow U.S. and Bahamian law enforcement partners to collaborate on transnational security efforts.

“Today’s donation is a tangible testament to our partnership,” said U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Daniel Cheever of U.S. Northern Command. “It illustrates how fundamentally important citizen safety and security is to our two nations. Truly, we are all in this together.”

Bahamian Minister of National Security Marvin Dames, RBDF Commodore Raymond King and other Bahamian officials were on hand to receive the equipment. The donation comes at a time when the commonwealth is bracing for a potential exodus from Haiti.

The RBDF is sending additional vessels to the southeast Bahamas in anticipation of a possible wave of migrants fleeing Haiti in the aftermath of the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, King told The Nassau Guardian newspaper. King said the increasing instability warrants efforts to shore up Bahamian borders.

“What we are basically doing is enhancing our strategic posture and positioning in the southeastern Bahamas and, in particular, along the windward passage and the waters between Great Inagua and the coast of Haiti,” he said.