There are many things wrong here
Another vessel is lost at sea and a number of factors have conspired to test the best resolve of the authorities. This vessel was not considered seaworthy by the authorities some four years ago but it still ended up in the deep sea with valuable cargo.
Four crew members have disappeared and a lot of time and money is being spent on rescue efforts. Members of the coastguard and private operators of small craft are scouring the area in which the vessel went down.
There are now some glaring questions. Having been declared unseaworthy how did this vessel manage to secure a contract to transport equipment in the open seas? The answer is simple. We do not impose severe penalties on people who violate the rules. We also do not monitor those vessels because from the time it secured a contract the authorities should have been made aware.
Further, as it was leaving the harbor, the Harbour Master would have been in a position to radio the captain and ask the requisite questions. Certainly this did not happen with the result that people’s lives may now be in jeopardy. I am convinced that the boat owner would escape sanctions.
The charge should be murder, because knowing that his vessel was not seaworthy, the owner should have done a number of things to improve its condition before even seeking a captain. The boat was not stolen so I can only assume that the owner made his unseaworthy boat available for hire.
The authorities say that the boat had adequate communication systems, but these were never used. I would have expected that an SOS would have been sent out almost as soon as the vessel encountered difficulties. No such message was ever received or sent. Instead, I have learnt that the captain had ample time to radio authorities for assistance or notify them of his distress, but this did not occur…the captain instead used the vessel’s satellite phone to call his brother.
The authorities now say that had the correct procedures for abandoning ship in an emergency case been followed by the captain, those missing would have been retrieved along with the others. Just as I was penning this column I got word that one of the missing four had been plucked from the sea and was in the Mabaruma Hospital. That is good news.
And minutes later there was word that another had been sighted—whether dead or alive I cannot say.
I am shocked at the casual manner in which the authorities have allowed the situation to continue. In my book someone should have been arrested by now.
This is not the first time that vessels have disappeared at sea. It is also not the first time that the investigations have petered out and life has continued as usual for the people who owned the boat and who must have insured it.
There was the Dixie that disappeared with a load of sand way back in 2005. I remember interviewing the owner and he cried. He claimed that he felt for the missing men and their families. He pledged to do everything to help the families.
Only a few weeks ago I learnt that the vessel was found and was in Haiti way back in 2009. There was no word about the crew. Could it have been that the vessel was transporting something illegal and the crew got arrested and may be languishing in a jail? Could pirates have attacked the vessel, killed the crew, took what was needed, and left the vessel to drift until it was discovered?
Did the owner collect the insurance and make himself comfortable? Did he go to Haiti and try to recover his vessel? Are the authorities who initiated search and rescue efforts aware of what is happening at this time?
There was also the Windjammer. That too disappeared without a trace. The relatives of the people aboard the vessel only have memories. Whether the owners have compensated these people is not known.
This has also been the case of those men who disappeared after pirate attacks. And the numbers have been increasing. There were the set who were disemboweled and tossed overboard. I still remember the horror of the family when they were called to witness the post mortem.
It was as if some unknown creature had committed these acts because no one has been arrested. I know that people talk and someone must have heard someone recount what transpired, but this person has chosen to remain silent.
These thoughts haunt me, because some of the people who try their luck at sea deserve some protection in the same manner in which we on land expect to be protected by the law enforcement authorities. We do not have adequate patrol vessels, but we do have communication equipment.
Aircraft are required to notify the respective authorities when they enter certain airspaces. In like manner, vessels should be made to report. However, this is not the case, perhaps because of reasons so far unknown.
I wish people who venture out to sea recognize that they are in a lonely world and that they need to maintain contact with those who may have the capability to respond when the need arises.
Meanwhile, I can only pray for the rescue of those involved in the recent mishap. They may have an interesting story to tell.