Bahamian Customs and Border Patrol Changes
There have been reports from some cruisers that Customs and Border Patrol in The Bahamas is getting more aggressive. Agents have been boarding boats and asking about weapons onboard. For example in a recent case agents boarded a boat in Bahamian waters and found a discrepancy in the number of declared shotgun shells for a gun kept onboard for security. There were fewer shells when compared with what the owners had declared when they cleared into the country. They were given an ultimatum. They were told they would have to go back and appear before a magistrate in Freeport, Bahamas and possibly spend time in jail OR they could pay a “cash” fine “on the spot”. They were told this was a new 2018 policy but officials could not site guidelines or laws to support this. They scrambled to find the cash to pay the fine as there seemed no real choice. These boat owners later found other boats in the same anchorage experienced similar treatment.
Firearms laws are strict in many countries including the Bahamas. In defense of the law enforcement officials in this story it could have meant the bullets had been recently fired or had fallen into the hands of criminals. Information can be less accessible in the Bahamas but if you look, you will find it. In this case, it can be found on the website for the US Embassy in the Bahamas. Should this or something similar happen to you always ask for a receipt to show the fine already paid.
Boardings of this type seem to be on the increase and it may not be just for firearms violations so be prepared. Other complaints include check-in fees seem to sometimes be at the whim of the officers on duty at the time. Be sure to take the time to review the current rules and laws and be as educated as possible anytime you plan to travel outside US waters. Keep in mind that you are no longer in US waters and the consequences of breaking their rules and laws are not the same as they are in the US. You best approach would probably be to always remain polite, pay the fine, document everything, and if you feel you were wronged take it up later with the Bahamian Ministry of Tourism. Enjoy this beautiful country but keep in mind they have their own set of rules and laws.