Police have confirmed that they are continuing to investigate the whereabouts of occupants of two Jamaican drug canoes that were found abandoned and capsized on local reefs earlier this year. This comes after Governor Martyn Roper raised the possibility that local COVID-19 cases could stem from people entering Cayman illegally on boats from Jamaica.
The governor, in comments at a press briefing last week, said the source of the recent community transmission cases had not been tracked down, but he said it may be possible that it concerned individuals “involved in illegal activity arriving on our shores after undeclared boat trips to and from Jamaica”.
The Cayman Islands Coast Guard recovered one canoe which ran aground on the ironshore off Ocean Club in Prospect in March, and a second one that was found capsized on the reef off South Sound in July. Packages of ganja were found either on board or near the canoes.
“No crew for either vessel has so far been identified or located,” the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service said in response to queries from the Compass. “Both incidents remain under investigation and we are encouraging members of the public to contact the police if they have any information, by calling 949-4222, by contacting our Confidential Tip Line at 949-7777, or via our website.”
So far this year, according to the RCIPS, the Cayman Islands Coast Guard has intercepted four drug canoes, seizing 2,021 pounds of ganja and arresting 14 suspects.
While Coast Guard officers are considered to be special constables until such time as a legislative bill is passed to formalise their role, they are supported during marine interdictions by officers from the former Joint Marine Unit and the Firearms Response Unit, as well as receiving aerial cover by the police helicopters, as required, the RCIPS stated.
The Cayman Islands Coast Guard Bill is currently going through the public consultation process and is expected to be passed into law at an upcoming meeting of Parliament.
“The CICG, although waiting for the establishment law to be enacted, is fully operational with a fully equipped fleet and armed response capability to patrol and protect our maritime domain and secure our territorial waters,” the RCIPS said.
Asked if there appeared to be an increase in the number of such drug boats entering Cayman’s waters, the RCIPS said the Coast Guard had “not noticed a significant uptick in vessels attempting to illegally enter Cayman compared to the same period last year. For the same period in 2020, there were five successful interdictions”.