Thu | Dec 8, 2016

Cargo ban lifted

Published:Wednesday | March 2, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Air Jamaica plane on tarmac. - file

Local, US authorities determine airline threat was a hoax

Daraine Luton,
Senior Staff Reporter

INVESTIGATORS ARE in the process of tracking down the person or persons responsible for feeding local police with false information which resulted in a temporary ban on cargo and duty-free items into the United States, Canada and The Bahamas on outgoing Air Jamaica planes.

A senior police source said last night that four persons were being probed in relation to phone calls made about the threat of an explosive being placed on an outgoing flight.

"There are some persons who we are investigating, and these persons are linked to the calls that were made surrounding the issue," the policeman said.

The 72-hour ban imposed by the US on Sunday night as a result of the calls was lifted yesterday after investigators from the United States visited Jamaica and collaborated with local police in determining that information about explosives being placed on a plane was a hoax.

"Preliminary investigations conducted by the National Intelligence Bureau suggest that the report is a hoax, maliciously contrived to defame an employee of an airport concessionaire," Transport Minister Mike Henry told Parliament yesterday.

He said the investigations were continuing, with a view to confirming the preliminary findings as well as apprehending the persons responsible for the mischief.

Henry told the House of Representatives that Jamaica maintains a high level of security screening for both passengers and cargo on all outgoing flights.

"Any threat of the kind involving this instance is taken seriously until investigations suggest otherwise," the transport minister said.

He added: "At the same time, care is being taken to review our security protocols to ensure the maximum safety of aircraft and passengers using our airports."

The police on Sunday night alerted authorities at the Norman Manley International Airport of information received that an explosive was to be placed on a US-bound flight. Henry said although the report was unverified, the information was immediately conveyed to the United States' Transporation Security Administration, which immediately imposed a 72-hour ban on flights heading to the US or using US airspace to Canada and The Bahamas.

Vitus Evans, president of the Jamaica Exporters' Association (JEA), said the lifting of the ban represented good news for the members of his organisation.

"That certainly would be welcome news by our members who suffered some losses because of the imposition of that restriction," Evans said.

He has expressed a desire for airlines to make extra space to be able to pick up the cargo that was grounded as a result of the ban.

The JEA president also said it was his hope that the persons who created the hoax would be caught and brought to justice.

"One of the things that people must recognise is the impact that those hoaxes have on the entire nation, because at the end of the day, the losses that exporters would have suffered are tremendous," Evans said.

daraine.luton@gleanerjm.com