Undoubtedly, and quite justifiably, there will be review upon critical review of the country’s performance in the face of Tropical Storm Bret.
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Derelict ships to be removed
The Ministry of Transport and Maritime Services Division (MSD) will take its most decisive step yet in dealing with the abandoned ships in T&T waters by hiring a contractor to remove all of the derelict vessels that litter the coastlines. The tender notice is due to appear in newspapers within the next fortnight, and will be open to both to both local and foreign contractors.
At the last reported count, 51 vessels were in varying states of disrepair, some in shallow waters, some partially submerged, some fully capsized and some anchored or tied together further out to sea. In early April, Minister Steven Cadiz revealed that the MSD had taken action on the 13 derelict boats in Chaguaramas when it instructed the owner, Nguyen Hai Chau, to return to Trinidad to deal with the issue.
Steven Valdez is a member of the T&T Yacht Club and T&T Game Fishing Association who has closely monitored the situation and first notified the T&T Guardian that some of the ships were capsizing in December last year. He reports now that one of the ships had been moved to a Port-of-Spain shipyard, where it was stripped and is awaiting shipment to China as scrap metal.
A second ship named Unity, a former National Petroleum (NP) vessel used for carrying liquid petroleum gas (LPG), has also been taken to the Sea Lots breakers’ yard where it awaits a similar fate. Once Unity has been dealt with, another NP LPG carrier named Enterprise will follow suit. Valdez told the T&T Guardian, “The two NP ships were tied side by side within 100 yards proximity to the Tidewater vessels.”
Tidewater is the name of the Louisana company which deals in offshore service vessels. The American company bought the ageing Brazilian-manufactured boats once they had been decommissioned two years ago then sold them to Taiwanese businessman, Hai Chau, who paid for their mooring. Valdez says a fourth ship, called the Port-of-Spain Dredger, is anchored between the tiny Centipede Island and Gasparee Island, opposite the Coast Guard headquarters in Staubles Bay.
“Where the Port-of-Spain Dredger is located, its anchor sits very close to the main power line running from the mainland to Gasparee,” said Valdez. “It was hoped that the anchor could be lifted but the winch on the ship doesn’t work. They might have to disconnect the anchor and chain and leave it there to move it.” The dredger (a ship used for removing sediment at the bottom of the ocean) is due to be moved within the next two weeks, which Valdez says is imperative for safety reasons.
“What’s scary is it’s close to some of the island homes. If there was a bad storm, strong wind or a strong tide, the ship could move towards the jetty, and that could cause considerable damage,” he said. The removals are being handled in part by Maritime Preservation Ltd, a dry dock and ship repair company, though some of the vessels will also be removed by MSD, which is responsible for overseeing the overall project, at the owner’s expense.
Valdez confirmed he had heard from “a very good source” that the tender was expected to be published in the newspapers within two weeks.
Where and why
Of the 51 ships, 39 are in the northwest of Trinidad, while the rest are in Claxton Bay, San Fernando, Cedros and Tobago. Valdez showed the T&T Guardian photographs of the ships, many of which are in terrible states of disrepair. Their hulls are damaged, floorboards are broken and the submerged ones have been seen leaking oil and diesel into the Gulf of Paria.
Valdez believes some of the vessels have been for drug and gun-smuggling. They have also been used for the illegal sale of diesel, according to Energy Minister, Kevin Ramnarine