Mailboats of the Bahamas : A Blue Economy Mainstay on its Third Century, Since 1804  (By Eric Wiberg)

As the preeminent archipelagic state in the Western Hemisphere, the thousands of islands of the Bahamas have been more reliably served since 1804 by sea than by air. That is still the case. Communities like Mayaguana continues to support the largest mailboat fleet owners and operators despite loss of their airport. Artisanal crafts, fisheries, farming, crabbing and livestock rely on bulk shipping and not air. Mailboats as a fleet are the primary drivers of a blue economy in Bahamas, providing the integral marine resources binding outlying persons and trades with the capital and markets beyond, the cascarilla bark and Campari in Italy being on example.

Mailboats provide markets to fisheries, access to education and better wages, to dispose of waste, enable tourist penetration in a sustainable affordable way directly to locals, not to foreign-owned resorts and cruise companies. For many years mailboats were the only way for women in different Mayaguana settlements to socialize, in the absence of roads or an airstrip. The vessels have originated globally, from Polynesia and Asia to Europe and the US. They represent a balance of free enterprise and self-empowerment with government oversight and subsidy.

Capt. Wiberg voyaged on dozens of mailboats since the mid-1980s covering 10,000 nautical miles and almost all major islands. His ground-breaking study Mailboats of the Bahamas, 200 Years of Maritime History (2021) details more than 200 vessels, their ownership, routes, contributions on nation development, casualties and tragedies. It is the most unique and unheralded archipelagic network behind that of Indonesia.

Open-Souirce Robotic Vessels for Environmental Research

 (Robert Kidd, PhD)

Abstract: As increased attention is directed toward environmental concerns in the maritime environment, there is an increased need for reliable data in inaccessible areas. To address this, this project utilizes a small 3D printed vessel that can be used to remotely monitor water quality in off-shore locations. The vessel is designed to be cost effective and require limited knowledge to operate but still provide data that can benefit researchers in marine environmental science. The future goal of the project will be to make the vessels autonomous, allowing them to collect the data without human intervention.