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Maritime Security Caribbean 2013

Maritime security experts meet to discuss regional threats and challenges

Maritime security and law enforcement professionals from the Caribbean and beyond are gathering in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands, for Maritime Security Caribbean 2013. Attendees represent governments, coast guards, police, academia and industry. The conference was opened by Peter Beckingham, the governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands, an independently governed British overseas territory located south of the Bahamas and north of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

While the conference is covering a broad set of security challenges in the region, the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) represent a good example of all the issues maritime nations must deal with, including safety, security, sovereignty, commerce, the environment, and more. The TCI is a small country of about 50,000 people who live on a number of small islands surrounded by and dependent upon the ocean. Most food is imported, and the country has few exports. Tourism is by far the biggest industry. Threats include the transshipment of narcotics, illegal fishing, and human trafficking. Like any country, the TCI must fully understand those threats and determine the best use of the finite resources available to address them.

According to Gardiner, the number of illegal migrants who were interdicted in 2012 was about 900, and is on track to be higher this year. “It could reach the equivalent of four percent of our population this year.”

According to Police Commissioner Colin Farquhar, crime is not a major problem, but TCI government officials acknowledge that tourists have a choice of destinations, and maintaining a safe environment for visitors is vital to their economy.

Sareth Neak of Homeland Security Outlook, the conference organizer, said the event marked their seventh maritime security conference, but first outside the U.S.

Beckingham acknowledged the substantial maritime security risks of drug and human trafficking and illegal immigration for the TCI. “There is a huge vulnerability about these islands.”

TCI Minister of Border Control and Labour Ricardo Don-Hue Gardiner said his country has 40 islands and cays, of which eight are inhabited, and miles and miles of beautiful beaches, which are attractive for tourists but also are ideal landing areas for drug smugglers and human traffickers, the removal of endangered flora and fauna and introduction of unwanted invasive species. “A big problem for us is the Illegal landings by sloops packed with people who did not go through proper entry process. Our goal is that no vessel reaches our shores undetected or without scrutiny,” Gardiner said.

“We’re looking to continue this dialogue to advance maritime security in the region when we host Maritime Security Caribbean 2014 in Nassau, Bahamas,” Neak said.

According to Gardiner, the number of illegal migrants who were interdicted in 2012 was about 900, and is on track to be higher this year. “It could reach the equivalent of four percent of our population this year.”

Gardiner said the TCI has had great success with its surveillance radar to monitor the approaches to the islands.

“Our system is good, but not perfect, and will require additional investment. We must utilize the available tools to our advantage. We must strengthen our radar investment to ensure we have no holes in our national coverage. While we have advanced technologically, so has the threat,” said Gardiner.

“The radar has opened the eyes of everyone about what’s happening in the waters off TCI,” said Beckingham.

“We have a fundamental responsibility to do the very best we can to protect our people and our visitors,” said Gardiner.

“We’re looking to continue this dialogue to advance maritime security in the region when we host Maritime Security Caribbean 2014 in Nassau, Bahamas,” Neak said.

By

Capt. Edward H. Lundquist, U.S. Navy (Ret.) is a senior-level communications professional with more than...