Good for you Mr Duffy! It's about time somebody stood up and spoke out loud about the high incidence of drug abuse in the yachting world. Well done.Mind you it's not just Antigua.I am constantly shaken by the ubiquity of drug abuse in the Rio Dulce, Guatemala.
Drugs 'endemic' among yacht crews claim
When it was revealed that Drew Gollan, the 38-year-old superyacht skipper shot dead on Antigua in January, was thought to be in possession of a quantity of drugs at the time of his death, it prompted local yachting industry luminaries to comment on what they regard as an endemic problem among yacht crews in Antigua.
John Duffy, president of the Antigua & Barbuda Marine Association, is calling for regular drug testing to combat the situation.
"I have continually stated that if there was no demand there would be no supply and that a large amount of crime is drug related," said Duffy. "For too long drugs have been freely available to yacht crew - you could go into some bars are order a beer and a 'charlie'," he claimed.
"There was a culture here that the yachting industry was so important that you couldn't do anything to upset them which included turning a blind eye to the drug dealing," he continued.
"The unfortunate consequence of that was the drug dealers were given a free rein and other criminals would see the yachting community as easy pickings. All that now has to change," he told Yachting World.
"Some yacht management companies drug test crew before they are employed and carry out regular drug testing, " he said. "This ought to be standard procedure for all yacht management companies and yacht crew employment agencies.
"If a skipper can be using drugs when in charge of a multi-million dollar yacht then the company employing him must have been acting irresponsibly if they did not test him," claimed Duffy.
"I am not saying that Antigua has been at fault for not enforcing the anti-drugs laws but the blame and responsibility does go a lot wider and others have to play their part," he said.
He also reiterated the fact that a zero tolerance policy for both suppliers and users will be enforced from now on, something that is supported by yacht skippers. "Some have even suggested that a local drugs testing clinic should be available. It is an initiative we (the ABMA) are looking at closely along with ABSAR (Antigua Barbuda Search and Rescue) who also act as the local paramedics."
Duffy is not the only one to highlight the use of drugs in the yachting community and to claim that this is fuelling the problems of drug related violence. One leading yachtsman who wanted to remain anonymous claimed the demand for drugs among crew had "become huge, and of course some bad guys from town are taking advantage with the supply."
He felt that the answer to the problem should start with the owners and management companies of yachts and that drug testing should be mandatory. He said that this would help eliminate demand, "and the bad guys would go elsewhere".
"More police will calm the area but the problem will not go away until the demand goes away and more police will change the nice free and easy atmosphere of English Harbour," he said. He emphasised that he thought the responsibility lay with captains and owners.
Another leading businessman in the Caribbean yachting industry said: "The Maritime and Coastguard Agency, agents and captains all have a very dirty act to deal with here. Rogue pilots are quickly dealt with in the airline industry - superyachts should be treated no differently."
He also claimed that some high profile captains, some of them commercially Class 1V rated, receive drug and alcohol addiction counselling. "Because of this lamentable truth many crew rest in the secure knowledge that drug use will never be properly addressed and stamped out," he claimed.
The police, security services and Crime Stoppers on the island reacted quickly after the Gollan death, for which a man is now in custody charged with his murder, and the Marine Association issued a statement with details of measures they hope will soon be in place.
Requests for more patrols and stop and search authorisation have been made to the Prime Minister Spencer Baldwin and the island's Police Commissioner Thomas Bennett and the zero tolerance policy on drugs is already in place.
There is a plan to install CCTV equipment, Tourist Police Patrols are being stepped up and the island's Crime Stoppers van is making more regular visits to the English and Falmouth Harbour areas.
The local community is being urged to contact Crime Stoppers on a local number 800 TIPS (8477) or go online to www.crimestoppersantigua.com if they have any information about the Gollan killing or any other crime. The site offers an untraceable service to ensure anonymity.
Yachting World/David Glenn, 5 February 2009