Pre-Clearance Service Returns to Grand Bahama International Airport Since Hurricane Matthew

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has re-established its Pre-Clearance service at the Grand Bahama International Airport.

Officers returned to Grand Bahama on October 31, after having vacated the post in early October (Sunday, October 9, 2016), a few days following the devastation of Hurricane Matthew to the island. Operations of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection resumed at the Grand Bahama International Airport on Thursday, November 3, 2016.

Interim Port Director, John Deitzer, Jr. said that it was never the intention of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to leave the facility, but only did so for the safety and welfare of their employees.

The Category Four hurricane that swept through Grand Bahama impacted all of the ports of entry on the island, including the domestic and international airports. While there was no major flooding at the airport, there were significant damages due to strong winds and power to the facility was affected.

Unfortunately, when it became public knowledge that officers from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection had left the island, rumors quickly began to circulate that the United States had pulled out its pre-clearance privilege in the country.

“I knew that those rumors were wrong,” said Mr. Deitzer. “It was never our thought process to leave the facility. The United States is in the process of expanding preclearance worldwide. It’s part of our extend the borders initiative, so the last thing we would want to do is to close preclearance facilities.”

The Interim Port Director said that having preclearance privileges here in Grand Bahama is extremely an important aspect of life here in Grand Bahama because it goes along with the United States’ overall strategy of extending the borders away from the United States.

“It’s a benefit to the U.S. government, it’s a benefit to the host country and it’s a benefit to the air carriers and stakeholders,” Mr. Deitzer added.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Fred Mitchell also pointed out the importance of having preclearance privileges here in The Bahamas, noting that it is a continued commitment of the United States of America to work along with the Bahamian Government to provide this service.

“I welcome the re-establishment of the Customs service in Grand Bahama,” said Minister Mitchell. “On behalf of the Bahamian government, I express thanks for the work that the United States Customs offer not just in Grand Bahama, but throughout the entire Bahamas.

“Their service, no doubt is very helpful to our tourist product, especially when one considers that we have thousands of visitors come to these islands on a yearly basis and when one considers the thousands of Bahamians who travel to the United States.”

During the three weeks when the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency was closed at the GB International Airport, Bahamians who did not have any status in the United States, had to clear Customs once they landed in the United States or travel to Nassau to clear Customs there before going on to the United States.

Deitzer said that the operation of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection has returned to normal, but noted that there are limited operating hours at the airport because of a challenge it had with full power at the facility.

Because of the damages to parts of the airport and because power has been limited to the facility, the airport has been operating under flying visual flight rules, which meant that incoming aircrafts and departing aircrafts could not land nor take off between the hours of dusk to dawn, because of the power shortage of lights on the runways.

So the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Department at the Grand Bahama International Airport operate from 7:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m. until full power is restored and evening flights return to normal.

“Our hours just reflect the restriction that the airport has mandated because of the damages to the airport,” said the Interim Port Director. “I know that they are tirelessly working on repairing the airport systems, but up to this point we don’t know when it will be fixed. But I would think that in the short term everything would be back to normal.

“I would like to reiterate that it was never our intention to leave. We were actually happy to get back and resume our law enforcement mission and enhance the quality of life for the Bahamian people.”

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