By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The Chamber of Commerce's chief executive yesterday warned that the Bahamas is serving as a "dumping ground" for vehicles that have been rejected as unsafe by other nations.
Edison Sumner said more than 17,000 vehicles are being exported to the Bahamas from Japan on an annual basis, despite concern over their "roadworthiness" and possible "radioactive contamination".
Mr Sumner, who also serves as deputy chair of the Bahamas Bureau of Standards and Quality (BBSQ), told the Rotary Club of South East Nassau that the agency's trip to Japan in January had assessed pre-export inspection processes for used vehicles shipped to the Bahamas. It focused on one vehicle testing company, EAA Company, to determine whether its facilities were compliant with International Standards Organisation (ISO) 1725 certification.
That trip sparked claims of a "conspiracy" to "squeeze the small man"' and force Bahamians to purchase more expensive vehicles, claims Mr Sumner again sought to dispel yesterday. The delegation's findings have never been publicised.
Mr Sumner argued that the Bahamas must improve its standards and "not just take anything pushed at us". He explained: "We took a trip to Japan last year to examine the exporters of Japanese vehicles who send their vehicles to the Bahamas. We found out then there were over 17,000 vehicles being exported to the Bahamas on an annual basis.
"We went on an assembly line and were given the opportunity to see how they inspect these vehicles. One of the things we saw, that few people talk about, was that these vehicles - apart form their roadworthiness - are being tested for radio active contamination.
"A lot of people in this country, unfortunately, are driving around in cars with radio active contaminants in them because of the earthquake they had in Japan a few years ago near the industrial and nuclear plants," said Mr Sumner. He was referring to the Japanese earthquake and tsunami that resulted in a series of meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in March 2011.
"A lot of that chemical got into these metals in these vehicles and is still there, and those cars are now driving on our streets because someone didn't go through the proper channels to get them properly inspected, and some of the people who were inspecting the vehicles in Japan were not inspecting them for these kinds of elements," the Chamber chief added.
"We saw some cars being pulled off the line that just didn't meet the standard we would like to see in the Bahamas. We came back and said we need to improve our standards, and not just take everything pushed at us."
Presently, the Bahamas has nothing to certify the roadworthiness of used vehicle imports, creating potential health and safety problems for consumers, and a potential environmental hazard from the wrecks dumped on New Providence's roadside.
Buyers in such instances do not receive 'value for money', and the 'saturated' market created by the influx of used auto imports also depresses sales/prices and government revenue.