By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Staff Reporter
GRAND Bahama Port Authority officials have confirmed the organisation does not have a radiation detection programme amid growing speculation over the screening of Japanese imports.
Up to press time, it was unclear whether or not the Freeport Container Port has an operational detection programme as information requests on the screening process were not returned.
Calls placed to Minister of Environment Kenred Dorsett for clarification on the issue, and the government’s position on the matter, have not been returned.
Last month, Jamaican customs authorities reported “higher-than-normal” levels of radiation in two shipments from Japan.
In an interview with The Tribune at that time, Comptroller Charles Turner confirmed the Bahamas Customs Department does not test cargo shipments for radiation contamination.
Mr Turner said he was “not aware of any checks being undertaken in the Bahamas”, nor did he have the proper training to speak with authority on the issue.
The Tribune has requested information from the Bahamas Customs department for the number of imported items from Japan since its nuclear accident in 2011.
However, officials confirm the request has not been authorised by Comptroller Turner.
According to The Gleaner in Jamaica, the Jamaica Customs Agency has been on “high alert” since the March 2011 earthquake-triggered meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan.
The JCA has been conducting the checks through a partnership with the United States Department of Energy, according to The Gleaner, which reported that tests are conducted on all vehicles and spare parts coming from Japan.
A statement from the US Embassy confirmed last week that officials are working with the government and the Port Authority to insure radiation detection equipment is operational.
US Energy Department officials visited the Bahamas in the week of January 27 to “review a radiation detection programme”, according to US public affairs officer Neda Brown, who said the potential for contamination is a “concern”.
Yesterday, Opposition Leader Dr Hubert Minnis hit out at the government again over its failure to respond to concerns on the screening of Japanese imports.
Dr Minnis said: “People are concerned about this. I’ve been getting lots of calls. I’m waiting on the government’s response. We only know what has happened in Jamaica.”