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Search and rescue unit among RBDF 2020 priorities

Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) Acting Commodore Dr. Raymond King yesterday outlined the defense force’s 2020 platform which includes the development of a Search and Rescue Unit.

“[We are focused on] formally establishing and developing a Search and Rescue Unit that is dedicated to search and rescue,” King told reporters during a press conference at the RBDF Coral Harbour Base.

“So, we’re in talks with the Air Accident Investigation [Department]. We’re working on an agreement in terms of how both of us would respond particularly if it is an aircraft crash, how we would respond. So, we’re also reaching out to the United States government in terms of building our capacity and capabilities in that range.”

His comments came more than a year after pilot Byron Ferguson’s six-seater Piper Aztec crashed in waters about a mile out from Lynden Pindling International Airport.

In the hours after the crash, officials said they spotted debris suspected to be from the aircraft. However, when they returned to the site the next morning, they were unable to find the wreckage.

The RBDF was lambasted by the family and by Attorney General Carl Bethel over its handling of the search and rescue operations.

Aside from the establishment of the new unit, King said yesterday he will focus on the decentralization of the force’s operations.

“The government has committed in excess of $400,000 for lodging and being able to billet the members in Inagua,” he said.

“We want to be able to decentralize them. The United States has installed the coastal radar system. We are now moving towards having the fuel farm constructed in Ragged Island as well as Inagua.

“So, we wanna move our resources — the land, air and sea — but I would carefully say that the sea part of it, the surface assets, they are already there cause we’re basically there 24/7 in the southern Bahamas. We’re basically there. The only thing is we’re not occupying the accommodation there.”

King said the defense force will also work toward “achieving increased maritime domain awareness”.

“So, with the drones, I intend to unfold that package as the government just signed off so we can be able to use those drones from our vessels as well as throughout the Commonwealth of The Bahamas,” he said.

“We have about five islands we intend to focus and to have those drones operate from.” 

He said RBDF will “soon” commence the electrification of the Coral Harbour base “in order for us to properly be able to keep our ships alongside and have them running off shore power as opposed to the generators”.

The acting commodore said the government has allocated more than $4.2 million for the project.

King said he also wants the RBDF to deepen its relationships with regional partners.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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