Jolly Harbour to get major port security upgrade


An important question was raised and answered during last week’s live post-Cabinet media briefing on Thursday morning. 


The question pertained to the security of Jolly Harbour as a border entry/exit port for the State of Antigua and Barbuda. 


It was based on an item in the post-Cabinet briefing notes which stated thus: “The Cabinet decreed that Jolly Harbour is to re-open as a point of entry for yachts and other sailing vessels. It is anticipated that Heritage Quay will become very busy and fully utilized in the weeks and months ahead, necessitating an additional entry point.” 


Orville Williams of OBSERVER Media referred to the “recent debacle” involving fugitive Mehul Chosksi’s alleged absconding or abduction from Antigua to Dominica via Jolly Harbour. “In light of this reopening of Jolly Harbour,” he asked Information Minister Melford Nicholas, “what can you say has been done to increase marine border security since these recent incidents, and now with increased marine activity expected over the next couple of weeks and months.” 


After lauding Williams for a “good question”, Minister Nicholas responded: “The head of the Port Authority, Mr. Darwin Telemaque, did facilitate a site visit earlier [last] week that … included members from my staff looking at both the telecommunications and … the IT (information technology) environment within the … Jolly Harbour bay area. There were customs officials … immigration officials, and … port health officials. 


“The idea behind opening up Jolly Beach as the landing point for marine craft – you will recall, last year, that in [an effort] to protect ourselves, we had only one landing site and that was at Redcliffe Quay. A specific location was set up at Redcliffe Quay where all marine craft – even those that were plying their trade out of English Harbour – they had to first come to Redcliffe Quay to be cleared for port health and for Customs and Immigration; and then … they would be allowed to ply their vessels within the waters around the island and … at the other docks.” 


Nicholas said, “That regime had subsequently changed to two; we were actually going back out into English Harbour area, and there is still a landing facility in the English Harbour-Falmouth area – and, of course, the one at Redcliffe Quay.” 


He said that in light of the imminent reopening of the cruise sector, “It was felt that the facility at the bottom of Redcliffe Quay would be, sort of, getting in the way; and so the preparation is underway now to allow for that alternate landing site – apart from what’s taking place in the Dockyard-English Harbour area – to be in the Jolly Harbour marine area.” “Coinciding with that,” Minister Nicholas added, “will be looking at the surveillance and security of that facility.” 


He said Government had been guided by the lessons learned so far from the Choksi matter and other border security issues. “My ministry has already been tasked and asked by the Cabinet to work along with law enforcement officials. I forgot to mention the head of the army and his staff were also on that inspection tour earlier this week … We are all looking at this, and the whole idea is to ensure that within the coming weeks … as we restore the operation in the Jolly Harbour area, we will … implement those security … and surveillance measures.” 


Minister Nicholas however observed that, “The location of the facility within Jolly Harbour – recessed as it is within the harbour – is not ideal, and I think all persons who were on the visit would have noted that. But this is something we [the current ALBP administration] came and met that way. The ideal location would have for the Port Authority to have been at the front of the bay.” 


Nicholas disclosed that the corrective measure which has been decided upon by the authorities “is to give them a virtual presence at the front of the bay to ensure that all movement of marine craft in and out of the bay will be under surveillance of the Port Authority and the security officials.”


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