The Governments of Jamaica and the United States of America (US) have now finalised improved operational protocols pertaining to the Shiprider Agreement, under which both countries cooperate to curtail illicit maritime drug trafficking.
This was disclosed by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, who informed that both sides agreed on changes to the operational protocols necessary to improve the functioning of the Agreement and that these new procedures became effective as of June 16, 2021.
“With the finalisation of the operational protocols, both countries stand to benefit from an improvement in the sharing of critical information and in the process of interception of vessels suspected of being involved in drug-related criminal activities at sea,” she said, in a statement during the sitting of the Senate on Friday (July 2).
Senator Johnson Smith, who is also Leader of Government Business in the Senate, said the protocols also allow the Government of Jamaica to achieve its goals of strengthening the fight against illicit drug-related activities, while at the same time protecting the interests of Jamaican citizens who may be intercepted at sea, pursuant to the Agreement.
“It is hoped that with these improved procedures, the challenges experienced in the recent cases will not be repeated,” she stressed.
Senator Johnson Smith further noted that representatives on both sides engaged in constructive dialogue and written exchanges in a spirit of cooperation and comity, adding that work to improve systems that give effect to the Agreement “will not stop here.”
“Indeed, the Agreement itself provides for consultation to ensure its smooth operationalisation and the new protocols provide for a minimum regularity of exchanges, with scope for additional consultations as necessary,” she said.
Senator Johnson Smith said the Government will use these opportunities to ensure that the rights of Jamaican nationals are respected and upheld at all stages of the process and assuring the effectiveness of these security operations.
“These additional protocols will, undoubtedly, deepen Jamaica’s cooperation with the US in these matters,” she said.
Senator Johnson Smith re-emphasised Jamaica’s firm commitment to engaging with its international partners in the fight against the use of the country’s waters for trafficking purposes.
“This remains a critical part of breaking the back of serious and organised crimes in Jamaica, and is, therefore, to the benefit of each and every law-abiding Jamaican citizen, whose rights must never be subordinated to those of the criminal elements among us,” she said.
Work to establish new operational procedures regarding the implementation of the Shiprider Agreement arose out of the case of the Jamaican-registered vessel ‘Lady Lawla’ with four Jamaican men onboard, which was intercepted by the US Coast Guard in October 2020, pursuant to that Agreement.
Jamaica entered into the Shiprider Agreement in 1997, which was brought into force by the passage of the Maritime Drug Trafficking (Suppression) Act, 1998. This Act has since been amended twice – in 2004 and 2016.
The Agreement sought further cooperation in deterring the movement of illicit drugs through Jamaican territorial waters from South America to the US. It further allows for cooperation in shipboarding, ship riding and overflight.
In addition, US Coast Guard law-enforcement detachments operating from specific foreign government ships will be able to board suspected ships in Jamaican waters. It also speeds up the provision of technical assistance, including drug-detection technology between the countries and puts a framework in place for the exercise of jurisdiction in each nation’s continuous zone.
It also ensures greater protection for civil aircraft, including an agreement that neither the US nor Jamaica will use force against civil aircraft in flight.