The Antigua & Barbuda Marine Association has taken an active role in the days following the shooting death of Capt. Drew Gollan, including arranging a meeting with island officials and police. The organization released the following statement this morning, which addresses both the fear some yacht owners and brokers have exhibited (perhaps understandably) as well as the overwhelming support many within the megayacht community have shown:
Following the tragic murder of the Australian yacht skipper, Drew Gollan, on the evening of Thursday 22nd January 2009 a group of restaurant owners called a meeting for 10.30 on Friday morning. The Prime Minister of Antigua, the Justice Minister, the Tourism Minister, the Commissioner of Police and some of his colleagues were invited to attend. The President of the Antigua & Barbuda Marine Association conducted the meeting.
The meeting was very emotive and more heat than light came from it, however, at a subsequent meeting of yacht skippers the following day attended by the Commissioner of Police, a more rational discussion was held and the need for the protection of the yachting community established. Over 30 letters from skippers have been received confirming their support for Antigua but requesting better protection.
There was undoubtedly a suggestion that a number of yachts were likely to leave as a result of the murder however, on cool reflection, most of the skippers agreed that Antigua, despite this murder, was still the safest Caribbean destination. One skipper, who had been ordered to take his yacht to an alternate island, said “It’s out of the frying pan and into the fire.” Another skipper, also ordered to leave, stated that he knew that Antigua is basically safe despite a rise in crime, not unknown throughout the world, however, getting the message through to worried owners, charterers and yacht management companies was much more difficult. It is reported that there have been some cancellations. This has been rather an over-reaction considering the substantially larger numbers of murders which occur on other islands that do not get reported as they are so commonplace. The reason this murder has received such widespread attention is because it is so rare in Antigua.
In the dozens of interviews given by the Antigua & Barbuda Maine Association to both the local and international press in both the printed and broadcast media it has been stressed that Antigua is still a safe haven for yachts and that this is recognised by the vast majority of yacht owners and skippers as evidenced by the lack of yachts leaving.
To date only three yachts are absolutely known to have left as a result of the murder with a rumoured further three also leaving. Yachts can be seen continually coming and the Immigration service have confirmed that the majority of yachts departing immediately after the incident had already been booked to leave prior to the murder and that an equivalent number had arrived since the incident. With over 100 yachts still in Falmouth and English Harbours there has not been the mass exodus some had predicted.
The President of the Antigua & Barbuda Marine Association attended many meetings and had numerous telephone and e-mail conversations with members of Government, government agencies and officers at all levels of the Royal Police Force of Antigua & Barbuda. The result of these discussions culminated in a strategy which will seriously enhance the safety and security of visiting yachts, their crew and their guests. Details can be found in the NEWS section of the Antigua & Barbuda Marine Association website – www.abma.ag.
The good news is that on 30th January the alleged murderer was arrested and charged with the homicide of Drew Gollan. This was as a direct result of good police work, the co-operation of the public and www.crimestoppersantigua.com.
A large portion of the economy of Antigua is dependent upon the yachting industry and the Antigua & Barbuda Marine Association together with the Government and the people of Antigua is dedicated to the continuation of this very important sector of the country’s tourism and maintaining Antigua’s reputation as the ‘best yachting destination in the Caribbean.’