Gunmen vandalise Antiguan-registered vessel during attack at Sand Hills

Gun toting men yesterday attacked an Antiguan registered vessel owned by Trinidadian shipping company, Coastal Shipping, damaging Global Positioning System (GPS), navigational and radio equipment and according to Dr Grantley Waldron who operates the sand mining concession where the attack occurred, it was a deliberate attack to immobilise the vessel.

The tug, MT Seven Mako Barge LM 2702 which arrived in Guyana on January 16 with a shipment of stone was docked at Waldron’s sand mining concession at Sand Hills and was expected to leave on Saturday for the Caribbean with its first load of sand in recent years.

“The boat brought stone to Guyana for CR International group that produces cement at Land of Canaan and was expected to leave last Saturday but we were not given permission to load until yesterday,” Waldron told Stabroek News.

Contacted, Crime Chief Seelall Persaud said the police had received a report of an apparent robbery on the Demerara River but he did not have all the details. Persaud also said that a team of ranks had been dispatched to the area.

According to Waldron, about six armed men invaded the vessel and tied up the security and crew. “About 1 am six men armed to the teeth went on board and tied up the security and then asked for the crew and tied them up and put them on the barge and proceeded to go to the navigation area,” he said.

Waldron said that the men then started damaging the equipment. “This wasn’t no piracy…. They came here to damage the equipment and to cause fear,” he added.

Questioned as to who would want to do this to the vessel Waldron said, “I can’t say who did it, but they intended to cause fear.

I would say that these are some individuals who are connected with the sand industry. It is a group of them that want to control the sand operation in Guyana,” he asserted.

He said that although no one was harmed, the men “banged the crew around” before they made off with cellular phones, jewellery and money.

He said that the men also set the boat on fire but this was quickly put out by the crew members. “They threw gasoline and lit the boat on fire, fortunately the crew were able to unbind themselves and out the fire,” he said.

Asked if he plans to strengthen security at the docks Waldron said they are in the process of beefing up security. “We have to step up security because it is clear that we are at risk. I don’t know whether it was for me to leave or for the vessel not to return to the Caribbean. Now we need to rethink everything because we are not going anywhere.

“The owner of the vessel is calling every hour because he is naturally concerned about the attack,” Waldron said.

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