Last update: 12-Dec-2013 1:27 am
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Habour Master cleared for sailing
The incident in which the Harbour Master ran aground off Port-of-Spain last month may have been due to a "freak occurrence," according to Brent Williams, a senior legal officer of the Maritime Services Division. The boat, with 520 people on board, ran into trouble during a cruise on August 18 when the tide went out and the boat struck the submerged wreck of a tugboat in the harbour not far from the Hyatt Regency. The Harbour Master became stuck and the Coast Guard had to ferry passengers to shore. The day after the rescue, the hull of the boat was inspected by maritime consultant, Commodore Garnet Best, who found no integral damage, just minor dents. The boat was deemed safe to sail and has hosted several parties, including weddings and corporate events, with customers apparently unperturbed.
But John Victor, communications manager at the Ministry of Transport, told the T&T Guardian a wider investigation had now been requested by the Minister of Transport Stephen Cadiz under section 370 of the Shipping Act. Williams laid out the reasons for the investigation, saying: "Where there's a casualty, which includes anything from a death to damage to a ship within the waters of T&T, the minister may call for an inquiry to be held. “We are in the process of doing that in accordance with the Shipping Act and the International Maritime Organisation casualty investigations code." The ministry has yet to appoint the person or people who will carry out the investigation but the process is scheduled to be completed and a report submitted to Cadiz by the end of next month. The Coast Guard absolved the captain of blame in the wake of the incident. Williams, however, said all submerged wrecks in the port were charted and all captains should have up-to-date charts and a knowledge of the tides. He said the Harbour Master might have experienced a freak tide.
Adrian Scoon, managing director of Harbour Tours Ltd, took the T&T Guardian on a tour of the vessel where he pointed out the 750 lifejackets and 23 liferafts on board. He said 25 crew members are on board during a sailing. He bought the boat in Bridgetown, Barbados, where it is still registered. All the safety equipment had been in place since he acquired the boat and was checked every two weeks, he said. Wendell Lopez, who was captaining the vessel when it ran aground, has been temporarily replaced by an experienced skipper, Kenneth Duboulet, while an internal investigation was being carried out, Scoon said. He said the Maritime Services Division had been “meticulous” in its inspection of the Harbour Master and since the incident had been running “a magnifying glass” over the vessel, which is due to host a big event next Tuesday (Republic Day).
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