Last update: 11-Dec-2013 6:16 am
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Harbour Master undamaged after mishap
The party boat that ran aground off the Port-of-Spain harbour on Sunday afternoon floated again as soon as the last passengers were taken off that night and the tide began to rise. Adrian Scoon, managing director of the company that owns the Harbour Master party boat, told the T&T Guardian yesterday the boat had been inspected and found to be undamaged after it hit a partially submerged shipwreck 500 feet off the coast. The Harbour Master was stranded at low tide for seven hours following the incident. Just hours after the completion of the Coast Guard rescue operation that ferried 540 passengers to shore at 12.30 am yesterday, the Harbour Master’s Facebook page issued an apology, then promptly posted a flyer for the company’s next big party on Independence night, August 31.
The apology read: “We apologise for the inconvenience and assure that all measures necessary have been discussed and are being implemented to ensure there is never a reoccurrence of last night’s experience.” No refunds have been issued to passengers as yet. Asked whether Captain Wendell Lopez, who was skippering the boat, was available for an interview, Scoon said he was sleeping. When asked if Lopez had been traumatised by the incident, Scoon said he had not slept as he was assisting the Maritime Services Division with a boat inspection until 5.45 am yesterday. Justyn Mayers, a photographer who was on board the ship, took pictures of the rescue operation but was told to put his camera away by plainclothes police officers and crew members. Contacted yesterday, Mayers said while there was no visible panic among partygoers, the festivities had been interrupted by a heavy impact. “Everybody felt it. Everybody was jolted forward and the DJ stopped the music and said he had children to live for and asked what was happening,” he said.
At that point the crew ran to the back of the ship to check the engines. A distress call was issued to the Coast Guard at 5.30 pm and three fast patrol craft were dispatched. Mayers said no exact information about what was happening was given to passengers during the seven-hour wait onboard but they were told they were in no danger. He said crew members had been issued with lifejackets but passengers were not. Yesterday, Lt Kirk Jean-Baptiste, of the T&T Coast Guard, said two officers boarded the vessel after it ran aground and found the integrity of the hull was not compromised. He said it was, therefore, considered safe for those on board to continue the party while rescue boats took them off in groups of 100 at a time. Later, the party cruiser was returned to its berth and inspected by officers of the Maritime Services Division, the agency that regulates such ships. All parties attributed the accident to low tides.
However, a spokesman from the Port Authority, told the T&T Guardian low tide was at 7.43 pm. The Harbour Master struck the wreck at 5.30 pm. The spokesman said a captain would normally be able to see a partially submerged wreck sticking out of the water, particularly at low tide, and steer clear of it, adding this incident sounded like it “could be due to some carelessness.” Asked whether spring tides might have caused an abnormally low tide, he said any such factors would have been known about long in advance. Jean-Baptiste, the Coast Guard’s communications specialist, said he believed climate change had created abnormal tidal patterns in recent years which might also have been a factor in Sunday night’s incident. The Maritime Services Division will be carrying out an investigation into the incident focusing on the route of the ship and whether the weight of the passengers on board was taken into account prior to sailing.
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