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The Bahamas is an extensive island chain spread over a territory of 100,000-square nautical miles, which is roughly the size of California. The Bahamas’ vast, disjointed territory, positioned between the southeast coast of Florida and the South America-Hispaniola trafficking vector, makes its waters appealing to transnational criminals smuggling illicit goods. These waters attract maritime vessels of all sorts, including cruise ships and pleasure crafts, allowing traffickers to blend in and go unnoticed. The Bahamas forms the United States’ “third border,” with the island of Bimini less than 50 nautical miles from the metropolitan areas of Fort Lauderdale and Miami, Florida. The Bahamas also welcomes over 6 million tourists per year, many of whom are Americans, making crime prevention and reduction through the islands a mutual priority of citizens of both the United States and The Bahamas.


As part of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), INL’s overriding objective in The Bahamas is to build Bahamian government maritime interdiction, justice sector, and financial crime capabilities. The Bahamas’ close proximity to the coast of Florida, as well as its location on Caribbean transshipment routes, makes it a natural conduit for trafficking in and smuggling of narcotics, firearms, and persons/migrants. To counter these threats, INL assistance aims to increase the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF)’s law enforcement and counternarcotics capabilities to enhance their ability to participate in Operation Bahamas, Turks and Caicos (OPBAT), a decades-old trilateral counternarcotics operation among the U.S., the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, and the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands. In addition to law enforcement and counternarcotics, INL-Nassau works to promote reform and enhance forensic capacity within the Bahamian justice and security sectors. INL-Nassau supports Bahamian government efforts to establish a legislative framework and an organizational structure to address issues related to corruption, money laundering, and asset forfeiture.


Since the inception of CBSI, INL has assisted the RBPF Marine Support Services Unit (RBPF/MSSU) with upgrading and maintaining its maritime fleet. Over the past several years, INL donated four new 41-foot interceptor boats, new engines to extend the life of previously donated vessels, and equipment such as boat lifts to reduce wear and tear. The new interceptor boats have been involved in several substantial drug seizures. OPBAT operations have significantly hindered the ability of drug traffickers to utilize Bahamian waters to transit illicit narcotics into the United States. Since 2008, OPBAT seizures have totaled approximately 11 metric tons of cocaine. INL is working with the United States Coast Guard to build the capacity of the RBPF/MSSU and Customs Marine Unit to participate in end-game interdiction operations through targeted train-the-trainer instruction. Furthermore, INL is leveraging the advanced capabilities of the RBPF/MSSU to train other Caribbean partners in proper maintenance and sustainment of maritime assets, increasing the operational availability of partner nation vessels to combat narcotrafficking in the Caribbean.

To advance the effectiveness of the justice sector, INL recently completed installation of digital transcription in all Bahamian magistrate and supreme courts. The equipment will increase the speed of trials by digitally recording court proceedings, thereby obviating the need for magistrates to record and review handwritten notes.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future