Shortly after dawn on Monday, May 19, 2014 the Bahamas’ newest defender pulled into harbour and lowered her anchor, marking the end of her journey halfway across the world and the beginning of her mission in the Bahamas.
The first of eight new vessels in the Royal Bahamas Defence Force’s (RBDF) new fleet, the 42-metre (138ft) vessel was described as the new “defender” of the nation’s borders and integrity. She would later be named HMBS Arthur Dion Hanna, after the country’s seventh Governor General, Arthur D Hanna.
The ship slipped her berth early on June 28 to start her maiden voyage in defence of the country’s sovereignty.
For the Bahamas, HMBS Arthur Dion Hanna is another tool to defend the borders of the country. But to Mr Hanna and his family it is the country’s way of honouring a man that has given his all for his country.
His daughter, now Minister of Transport and Aviation Glenys Hanna-Martin, said the family is extremely proud of not just his accomplishments but that the country has decided to honour him with something that he has passion for.
“It’s acute for me because they are honouring him through the Defence Force and his love of the sea,” she said.
“He was one of the founding fathers of our national institutions; the Defence Force is one of them. I know that he is proud. Coming from a Family Island himself, he has an acute appreciation for the reality of the Bahamas. I think he captains himself, he navigates, he fishes and I think he has dominion when he’s at sea.
“It’s in parcel an appreciation of his love for our country. The sea is such a major component of our national profile. I think he fully appreciates that attribute.”
When Mr Hanna was young his curiosity and love for boats nearly cost him his life. As he watched his uncles hop into a boat and head out to sea, he tried to walk and follow them, until he began to drown and had to be rescued.
Mrs Hanna-Martin said her father’s love for the sea has not diminished, even at the age of 86. She said that within the past two weeks he has gone fishing twice.
During the vessel’s commissioning, National Security Minister Dr Bernard Nottage said the entry of HMBS Arthur Dion Hanna into operational service ushers in a new level of capability and capacity for the RBDF.
“The obligations of the Defence Force are very demanding and are becoming more challenging as the Bahamas is increasingly being threatened with illicit activities that are inclusive of the trafficking of drugs, human smuggling, trafficking in persons, the poaching of our marine resources and trafficking in firearms and ammunition,” Dr Nottage said.
“Illegal firearms in particular have taken violent crime to a new level in our country. The increased threats require that we adopt new and improved strategies, particularly given the expansiveness and porosity of our borders.
“With modern communication, navigation equipment and armament, HMBS Arthur Dion Hanna is suitably equipped to safeguard the territorial integrity of the archipelago whilst providing maritime law enforcement throughout the Bahamas.”
HMBS Arthur Dion Hanna is armed with combat equipment and technology that RBDF officials say will yield maximum returns for the Bahamas, particularly in the war on transnational criminal activities, like guns, human smuggling and poaching.
Earlier this year the government announced its plans for a $232 million loan for the Sandy Bottom Project, which would see the purchase of eight new vessels as well as upgrades to ports at Coral Harbour, Gun Point, Ragged Island and Matthew Town, Inagua, with all of the work being done by Van Oord and Damen Shipyards out of the Netherlands.
HMBS Arthur Dion Hanna has an effective operational range of about 2,500 miles and is worth $15 million.
Commander Nedley Martinborough described the new vessel as the “void that’s been missing from the RBDF for many, many years.”
“It provides a complete range of vessels from 100ft to this one, which is 140ft and we still have within our fleet the 200ft HMBS Bahamas in Nassau, which is also set to receive some work during the Sandy Bottom project,” Cmdr Martinborough said.
“Given the existing fleet at the completion of the Sandy Bottom Project, that should suffice maritime security from the surface level for some years to come. I would daresay the next 15 or 20 years.”