NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Bahamas government yesterday entered into an official agreement with the United States for search and rescue missions.
The agreement follows the two countries signing an air service agreement in January of this year.
A contract signing ceremony at the Ministry of Tourism’s headquarters marked the occasion, during which Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar signed on behalf of The Bahamas and US Embassy Charge d’Affaires John McNamara signed for the United States.
Calling it a groundbreaking event, D’Aguilar said he was excited that the two countries have formalized this process as thousands of people have found themselves in distress in Bahamian waters.
“A requirement of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is that all member states should have an effective Search and Rescue (SAR) regime or engage the services of a service provider or another state to provide the SAR services,” he said.
“While the United States of America Coast Guard frequently assists The Bahamas with search and rescue missions for downed or missing aircraft, there is no formal arrangement that governs such assistance. In this regard, the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation assisted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority held a series of meetings with USA officials to negotiate the framework for cooperation between the two states for carrying out activities related to search and rescue within the aeronautical and maritime environment of The Bahamas.”
The agreement, D’Aguilar explained, constitutes permission by the government of The Bahamas to the Rescue Coordination Centre, Rescue Sub Centre and Search & Rescue facilities of the USA to coordinate and conduct search and rescue operations in the territorial sea and archipelagic waters of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas; and permission for the USA to enter, overfly and land as appropriate, in Bahamian territory, in the conduct of search and rescue operations.
McNamara thanked all of the agencies and individuals who worked together to bring the system into fruition.
“The United States Embassy, via its Coast Guard liaison, is pleased to partner with our brothers and sisters in The Bahamas to assist with search and rescue operations,” he said.
“It has been a long and hard journey to finally make this a reality.”
D’Aguilar noted that each party would bear its own costs arising from its participation in SAR operations or in any other activities within the scope of the agreement, except as may be agreed otherwise by the parties in writing in advance.
The Ministry of Tourism in a statement noted, “This agreement is a critical component of the government’s plan to assume control of the country’s sovereign airspace and to enter into a formal agreement for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to continue to manage the upper level of the Bahamas’ airspace.”
The tourism minister also said that recently the government received a letter from the FAA advising what it will cost The Bahamas for them to continue to operate the airspace.
“I will advise at the appropriate time their cost, once we finalize our agreement with the FAA; but needless to say, I am very pleased that we have passed that hurdle because cost to The Bahamas was a major consideration,” D’Aguilar said.
“Now that it has been determined, we anticipate the resumption of negotiations early next year to conclude the overarching air navigation services agreement.”