The Bahamas and United States Governments signed a Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) Agreement, aimed at prohibiting the creation and trafficking of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) across their respective borders.

The signing ceremony was held Monday, August 11, 2008, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where Acting Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs the Hon. Brent Symonette underscored the significance of the agreement.

Also present were Ms Kirsten Madison, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs; United States Ambassador to The Bahamas His Excellency Ned Siegel and officials representing both governments.

“As the third largest ship registry in the world, The Bahamas has significant responsibility in protecting the commercial interests of its mercantile shipping industry whilst doing its part to make sure that those companies registered under its flag remain safe and secure,” said Mr. Symonette.

He assured the US Government that The Bahamas, “having taken a very sober look at the seriousness of the impact of terrorism on humanity, will always remain loyal to the principles and goals of the Proliferation Security Initiative.”

Mr. Symonette said the “successful” conclusion of negotiations concerning cooperation to suppress the proliferation of WMD, their delivery systems and related materials by sea “epitomises the harmonious and strong relations that have always existed between our two countries and illustrates the concrete goals we continue to achieve in our bilateral relations.”

Global efforts include existing treaties, relevant international law, national law mechanisms and relevant Security Council resolutions (UNSCRs), Mr. Symonette added.

The Bahamas was also proud, he said, to be represented at the Fifth Anniversary celebration of the Proliferation Security Initiative which was held in Washington D.C. in May, 2008.

Since the launch of the PSI in June, 2003, more than 90 countries on six continents have endorsed the PSI Statement of Interdiction Principles. The agreement will facilitate cooperation between the US and The Bahamas to prevent illicit shipment by sea of weapons of mass destruction, their delivery systems or related materials.

“This is a testament to the commitment of the international community that nefarious elements will have no easy task in transferring and transporting weapons of mass destruction and their associated components around our world,” Mr. Symonette said.

“This PSI and its constituent PSI statement of interdiction principles builds on existing efforts by the international community to prevent proliferation of these illegal elements,” he said.

It also establishes procedures for obtaining approval for boarding and searching vessels suspected of carrying such prohibited items while in international waters. If a US or Bahamian flagged vessel is suspected of carrying proliferation-related cargo, either party to this agreement can request the other to confirm the nationality of the ship in question and, if needed, to authorise the boarding, search and possible detention of the vessel and its cargo.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Madison commended The Bahamas Government for joining the US in implementing “this important security initiative”.

“From our perspective, this security initiative is just one piece of a much larger partnership we have with the Government of The Bahamas on security issues, on issues that matter to the security of both the people of The Bahamas and the people of the United States.

“This agreement will bring additional agility to our security cooperation, by creating procedures that will allow the US and The Bahamas to move rapidly to inspect vessels suspected of transporting weapons of mass destruction and related material,” said Ms Madison.

She said there is no question that these new procedures “will enhance considerably our security bilaterally and contribute to a more secure world.”

Ms Madison said the US Government appreciates the signing the agreement with The Bahamas, adding that it was “no surprise” it came about.

“We have a very rich and diverse relationship with The Bahamas, extensive security cooperation and shared values on issues like democracy, respect for the rule of law, belief in sustainable economic development and an understanding that strong and effective security measures are essential to protect our way of life,” Ms. Madison said.