U.S. upgrades Bahamas’ maritime security


The United States recently bolstered maritime security in the Bahamas by delivering a radar system to its partner in the Caribbean region.

Air Force Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, commander of U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), officially delivered the Maritime Surveillance System (MSS) to the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) and the Bahamian government.

“This maritime domain awareness capability will dramatically expand the Royal Bahamas Defence Force’s ability to detect, localize and track vessels in the waters surrounding their nation,” VanHerck said during the handover ceremony at the Coral Harbour base on New Providence island, according to a news release from the U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas.

“This radar and the capability it provides will greatly enhance domain awareness for the Bahamas.”

(Pictured: Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, right, and Bahamas Prime Minister Philip E. Davis cut the ribbon on the new radar system.)

USNORTHCOM’s area of responsibility includes portions of the Caribbean region that include the Bahamas, which has been called the “third border” of the U.S. by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The U.S. $2.4 million-dollar MSS is part of a commitment of more than $10 million to empower the Bahamas to better ensure the safety and security of its vast archipelago, the news release said. The radar is the second MSS installed with funding from USNORTHCOM, the first having become operational on the island of Great Inagua in 2019. Third and fourth systems have been proposed for Ragged Island and Great Exuma.

The Bahamas stretches over a nautical area the size of Florida with more than 700 islands and 2,000 cays, the majority of which are uninhabited, making it a significant transshipment point for illegal drugs bound for the U.S., according to the 2020 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report.

VanHerck was accompanied by a delegation of U.S. officials for his first official visit to the Bahamas that included Rear Adm. Dan Cheever of USNORTHCOM and U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Usha E. Pitts. VanHerck was received at Coral Harbour Base by Prime Minister Philip E. Davis; Minister of National Security Wayne Monroe and Commodore Raymond King, head of the RBDF.

“In an environment where strategic competitors seek opportunities to gain a foothold in the Caribbean, this radar is a visible reminder of the United States’ commitment to our Bahamian neighbors, who are valued and willing partners in the defense of the Western Hemisphere,” VanHerck said during the handover ceremony.

One of those strategic competitors, China, has recognized the geographic and strategic significance of the Bahamas and has aggressively sought to deepen its influence with investments in the archipelago.

Still, Davis reaffirmed that the U.S. has a strong ally and security partner in his government, according to the news release.

“When we make the waters of the Bahamas safer,” he said, “the U.S. border is safer as well.”