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Govt considering keeping preclearance facilities in Florida

The Nassau Guardian December 10, 2019 Chester Robards

The government is hoping the continuation of Bahamas customs and immigration preclearance facilities in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida will help to increase the number of private pilots choosing to visit islands in The Bahamas, Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar told Guardian Business yesterday.

D’Aguilar said if the government decides to keep customs and immigration officers stationed at fixed-base operators (FBOs) in Florida, it would allow easier and more frequent access to remote islands and cays; reduce the cost to private pilots; and reduce the amount of congestion caused by small aircraft traffic at the Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA).

He added that it would also allow both the customs and immigration departments to more efficiently capture the government’s revenues from this type of general aviation activity.

“We feel that if we put this in place, we’ll have three positive effects,” said D’Aguilar. “It allows easier and much more frequent access to remote islands and cays in The Bahamas because they don’t have to go to official ports of entry; costs associated with having to first stop at an official port of entry will be appreciably reduced; and if Nassau is the preferred place of clearing, this would reduce the amount of smaller aircraft using LPIA,  contributing sometimes to the delays of that airport.”

According to D’Aguilar, immigration and customs officers are currently stationed at Sheltair Aviation at Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis revealed on Friday that the government has considered keeping the customs and immigration arrangement, since it worked seamlessly to move relief items into Grand Bahama and Abaco after Hurricane Dorian.

“Another Dorian-induced innovation being championed by the Ministry of Tourism is the establishment of Bahamas customs and immigration preclearance of flights in Florida to The Bahamas,” Minnis said.

“On seeing the efficiency of such a system, the minister of tourism persuaded two Florida airports to keep the system in place on a test basis, which was approved by the minister of finance and immediately embraced by those airport operators.

“Florida has the largest number of private pilots in the United States and the third largest number of registered aircraft.”

Minnis added that if the test is successful the government could look at introducing a similar system for seagoing vessels.

“This is now being examined,” he said.

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