Minister of International Transport, George Hutson (left), in conversation with Manager, International Security,??Chaim Koppel (centre) and IADB Programme Manager, Brian McNish following the opening ceremony.??
Travellers flying between Barbados and the United States of America (USA), could eventually do so under the protection of air marshalls, as efforts continue in earnest to upgrade security systems at the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA).
Word of this has come from Minister of International Transport, George Hutson, who said discussions were currently ongoing with regard to an Air Marshall Agreement with the USA, which would permit armed marshalls to be deployed on board international flights to and from the United States, should intelligence so suggest.
He was at the time addressing the opening ceremony of a joint Government and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) – funded ???Strengthening of Airport Security Project’ at the GAIA. The Barbados component of the regional project is expected to cost in excess of $1 million, with the IDB providing US$455,737.00, and Government, through the GAIA, providing counterpart funds of US$195,325.00.
Noting that the presence of air marshalls was one of the counter-terrorism measures developed by the USA since 9/11, Minister Hutson said the island’s dependence on tourism could expose it to some threats, especially if terrorists were prevented from striking their targets at home.
"If security is heavy at home and it is not practicable to strike there, then they will look for weak links in the system and strike …so we need to make sure that in Barbados our security systems are such that any such incidents are restricted," the Minister underlined. He said that this entailed the constant upgrade and monitoring of security systems and a reduction in external breaches including perimeter fences around the GAIA.
"The post 9/11 reality for countries like Barbados, which depend heavily on visitors from North America and the United Kingdom, is that the forces of terrorism are prepared to strike at any point. Government must, therefore, ensure that the highest level of security is in place to protect citizens and visitors alike," he underscored.
In addition to the evolution of emerging global threats to include international trade in narcotics and human trafficking, Minister Hutson stressed that modern-day terrorists were particularly skilled in exploiting the weaknesses in countries’ security systems.
"They study us as intently as we study them, and they spend many years plotting their next attack based on the information they gather.?? Terrorists and those engaged in illegal activity are innovative, resilient, well-trained, highly organised and frequently employ sophisticated advanced technologies and communications systems to plan and orchestrate their attacks. As a result of these characteristics, terrorists have completely transformed the security landscape around the world," the Minister opined.
With the number of passengers using GAIA increasing by 8.5 per cent to 2,165, 125 between the end of 2001 and the end of last year, Minister Hutson stated that it was Government’s intention to position GAIA as an aviation hub for the region. "Consequently, this reality also means that Government and airport stakeholders must be proactive in putting in place the necessary security measures which will keep the travelling public secure," he?? said.
In giving some insight into the programme, Programme Manager, International Security, Mr. Chaim Koppel, said trainers would be bringing over 30 years of expertise, best-practices and lessons learnt from their work in Asia, Africa and South America to the island, with a view to making Barbados "a hard target" for?? terrorists.
??"The most important thing in security is sharing of information and intelligence, and this is what we are trying to achieve here," he explained, citing inland, cargo, aviation and check-point security; hostage negotiation; emergency response and bomb disposal as being among the training modules to be offered. ??Mr. Koppel said they would also be helping to update the island’s security manual.
Some 225 persons from Government departments, including Customs, Immigration, Postal Service and the Royal Barbados Police Force, as well as private security agencies, are expected to be trained over the next year.