MARAD, fisheries unit urged to cooperate

– in wake of 17 vessels found abandoned in T&T waters

After receiving a call from the relevant Trinidadian authorities that 17 Guyana-registered vessels were abandoned in that country’s jurisdiction, Minister of Public Works Robeson Benn is urging the Mari-time Admiration Depart-ment (MARAD) and the Fisheries Department at the Agriculture Ministry to share information more freely.

He stated yesterday, in an impromptu meeting with MARAD Head Claudette Rogers and Safety Director Stephen Thomas, that the vessels which were found abandoned in Trinidadian waters had to be properly identified, with both MARAD and the fisheries department knowing the status of vessels registered and operating out of Guyana. Benn told officials that MARAD “should have a structured formal arrangement with [the fisheries dept] so they will tell you every quarter or every month who they have licensed.”

He said the 17 vessels that were found abandoned appeared to not be in operation, but it was MARAD’s obligation to perform due diligence and confirm whether the vessels were operating, if they had fishing licenses and if they were in fact all fishing boats. When MARAD received notification of the 17 vessels in Trinidadian waters it had solicited information from the owner of the fleet which has been identified as Bejorie Limited a company registered in Guyana, operating Taiwanese boats in the region.

At least six of the vessels appeared to be fishing for tuna in the Caribbean. Both Rogers and Thomas stated that they were never operational in Guyana. However, Benn put both MARAD representatives on notice that they needed to seek out relevant information.

Rogers stated that she was “not aware” if the boats ever worked in Guyana nor was she aware if Bejorie Limited was still operational in Guyana. She did state that MARAD had never had issues with the company prior. However, she said, the department had made multiple attempts to contact the company in relation to its annual inspection to remain compliant with the registration process.

Thomas interjected that MARAD and the fisheries department were supposed to have a memorandum of understanding that would make the exchange of information easier. He noted that since vessels had to provide a licence from MARAD or show registration in Guyana prior to getting a fishing licence it was the fisheries department that would be required to provide information. He did backtrack multiple times and state that both entities do however communicate.  Benn noted that a formal arrangement was needed so information was more readily available.

During the meeting Rogers and Thomas both stated that all 17 vessels had not been inspected as per the requirement of registration for three years, but upon further inspection of the files it was found out that some of the vessels were inspected in 2012.

Rogers clarified that licensed vessels enjoy a 12-month lease and while  registration does not expire, an annual inspection of the vessel is mandatory. She said that companies and individuals skirt away from registration because it comes at a price as does the annual inspection. She surmised that maybe inspections were ignored because companies did not wish to pay.

Benn however quickly shut this idea down stating that the boats seemed to be abandoned as it was such a large fleet and more information was needed. He stated that since some of the vessels were not inspected in the last few years they could have been damaged and MARAD needed to clarify this.

According to MARAD, registration in Guyana could be as low as $20 or less per tonne. Rogers said that many vessels they would register in countries with a better flag status and cheaper registration rates and would operate in entirely different zones.

Meanwhile, Head of the Fisheries Department Denzil Roberts told Stabroek News that currently the department is very open to sharing information. He confirmed that while confirming that the 17 Taiwanese vessels did not have local fishing licences. He stated that the department had no problem with sharing this information because MARAD and the department performed overlapping duties.

Stabroek News did try to make contact with Bejorie Limited, but this proved unsuccessful as it has no listed contact information in Guyana. The company is listed on Clarksons.net, which is a global integrated shipping service as well as the World Shipping Register, albeit with no contact information. Information provided to MARAD by the company was a Trinidad-based address.

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