Last updated: 01:30 PM ET, Wed January 20 2016

Bahamas Officials Respond to US Embassy Warning on Personal Watercraft Operators

Destination & Tourism | Brian Major | January 20, 2016

Bahamas Officials Respond to US Embassy Warning on Personal Watercraft Operators

PHOTO: Personal watercraft operators are under the microscope following a new advisory by the U.S. Embassy. (Photo courtesy of Thinkstock)

Bahamian operators of personal watercraft (PWC) are under growing scrutiny after the U.S. Embassy in Nassau this month warned travelers against patronizing local PWC services in the popular vacation district. The warning follows the Jan. 2 sexual assault of a U.S. citizen by a PWC operator in Nassau, the fifth such crime against a U.S. citizen in the Bahamas since July 2014.

The U.S. Embassy in fact banned personnel at its Nassau-based U.S. Embassy Chief of Mission authority from using PWC rental services in Nassau. The ban includes operators on Cabbage Beach and Cable Beach, two of the country’s most popular beaches among tourists. “We strongly advise that U.S. citizens do the same and not patronize these services,” the embassy warning reads.

The advisory further describes Bahamas PWC rentals as “only minimally regulated” and says travelers should “review their personal security plans.”

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Following the advisory, Glenys Hanna Martin, the Bahamas’ minister of transport and aviation, said the perpetrator of the latest incident was riding a PWC on a private beach and was not “a participant in the (personal watercraft) industry,” which she said is regulated in the Bahamas. “The most recent incident did not involve anyone who is licensed to engage in commercial water sports,” said Martin in a Bahamas Tribune report.

She added, “The commercial water sports industry is governed by the Commercial Recreation and Water Craft Act and all operators are subject to full vetting by the Royal Bahamas Police Force before licensing.”

Martin admitted however that “challenges do remain.” She will meet this week with Bahamas PWC operators “to discuss this advisory and its potential impact on their livelihood.”

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Lisa Johnson, the U.S. chargé d'affaires in Nassau, said this week it was “irrelevant” whether or not the latest suspect was a licensed PWC operator. Johnson said the Bahamas’ regulation of the water sports industry must improve before the embassy lifts its warning.

“I just don’t think at the moment this industry is being licensed, run and enforced in a way that is putting the best foot forward for The Bahamas, and my job is to keep American citizens safe,” said Johnson at a U.S. Embassy press event reported by the Nassau Guardian.

Nassau has struggled with an upswing in violent crime in since 2014 that has targeted travelers and residents alike. That year saw the U.S. Embassy issue at least three third crime-related warnings, and Perry Christie, the Bahamas prime minister, said growing crime threatened to halt the country’s tourism growth. 

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