Huge Increase in Boat Thefts in The Bahamas
The newly-formed Marina Operator's Association president said yesterday that insurers were insisting on "extra theft protection" for vessels coming into the Bahamas, due to a rise in boat thefts - especially in Abaco - amounting to more than $6 million "worth of vessels".
There are fears that this, coupled with fuel prices and a depressed economy, will cripple the resort/marina and second homeowner markets on that island.
John Bethell told Tribune Business that the Association is concerned about the thefts and their potential impact for the tourism industry. He added: "Insurance underwriters are insisting on extra theft protection being installed in vessels coming to the Bahamas.
"There is no doubt that boat theft will affect boating tourism in the Bahamas. Bahamians purchasing new boats also have to take these necessary precautions to obtain insurance.
"These extra theft prevention devices are not inexpensive and are another cost boaters will have to face."
Mr Bethell said Abaco residents are concerned that the rise in this kind of crime could begin to impact the sale of gas, hotel rooms, food and other supplies normally purchased by these boaters. According to him, people close to the industry are "very concerned" that persons who have had their boats stolen will not return to the island.
Patrick Fetch, general manager of the Treasure Cay Resort and Marina, said his resort recently beefed up security in order to thwart boat theft, but said there had been no such incidents in the Treasure Cay
area for some time. He added that a boat was stolen from a Treasure Cay Marina about two months ago. He said in that case, though, it was possible that the keys had been left in the boat. "Police say it might have been an inside job," he said.
Mr Fetch, whose resort has been affected by the downturn in the global economy, said business occupancy levels are down double digits - "the worst it has been".
Abaco's economy has fared far better than many other Bahamas islands, as its second home market saw only a marginal decline since the onset of the economic crisis. "It's slow like everywhere else, but we thank our lucky stars that second homeowners shoulder the economy during the soft seasons," said Mr Fetch.
However, locals fear a rise in boat theft could cause a further decline in the island's economy.
Recently, two boats valued at about $500,000 were stolen from an Abaco marina only hours after their delivery from the US.
This and other thefts, including one incident in which Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham's boat may have been tampered with, have left Abaco residents worried about the island's reputation. The scrutinizing eyes of residents have also been trained on the local police, who some say are not doing enough to curb the thefts.
"The Association is also concerned about the lack of concern the police department pays when thefts occur and are reported," said Mr Bethell.
"In many cases they will do nothing about it unless the vessel is found by the owner or another party and they are called to the scene."
He said this lack of interest by the police will inevitably lead visitors to question the security of the islands.
Mr Fetch, though, is not completely convinced that the thefts are causing much of a stir in the community of second homeowners - yet. He said residents should become more aware of the possibility of theft and begin to protect their vessels.
"Homeowners need to secure their boats and not leave them full of fuel and not leave the keys nearby," said Mr Fetch. "You don't leave the keys in your car."
According to him, several cameras have been installed at Treasure Cay Marina, and all fuel pumps are locked and secured, while security patrols the slips. He said his resort has been doing what it can to attract visitors to their product, including marking down rooms.
By CHESTER ROBARDS
Business Reporter, The Tribune