The Maritime Administra-tion Department (MARAD) says that the owner of the 17 Taiwanese vessels that were registered under Bejorie Limited in Guyana and abandoned in Trinidadian waters have two weeks to remove them.
MARAD’s Director General, Claudette Rogers, told Stabroek News yesterday that the Trinidadian authorities had notified Guyana that the vessels were posing a threat to Trinidadian navigation.
She said that MARAD will continue to solicit Bejorie Ltd to make contact with the department. Rogers noted that MARAD had previously tried to make contact with Bejorie but those attempts had proved unsuccessful. The current effort to get in touch with a Bejorie representative began on November 8.
The abandonment of the vessels has raised questions as to how well authorities here monitor registrations. Bejorie Ltd has no contact office located in Guyana and for one of the vessels the contact address provided was in Trinidad. Rogers told Stabroek News that MARAD needed to follow protocol and that advertising in the local media such as the original advertisement in Sunday’s edition of the Kaieteur News and one in today’s edition of Stabroek News was costing the department money and that she hoped to have the matter resolved quickly. She stated that if Bejorie failed to make contact then MARAD would go back to the Trinidadian authorities and at that point the Mari-time Services Division of Trinidad’s Transport Ministry would be authorised to do with the vessels as they pleased.
Since Bejorie Ltd seems to be an inactive company and MARAD only had contact with representatives to register a few of the vessels in 2012 there is concern that the Taiwanese vessels may have been fishing in Guyana’s waters without licences. Rogers had previously stated that some of the vessels had not been inspected for over two years. The Fisheries Department in Guyana confirmed that none of the vessels was granted fishing licences for Guyanese waters and no applications were even submitted.
The vessels known as Rich 1, Rich 2, Rich 3, Rich 5, Rich 6, Rich 7, Fullness 1, Fullness 2, Fullness 5, Fullness 6, Young Duck 3, Atlantica Rica 5, Atlantica Rica 6, Atlantica Rica 7, Atlantica Rica C, Atlantica Rica F and Atlantica Rica P were identified by their official registration numbers but they do have other names. It was not clear from the registered names if they were intended for deep sea fishing primarily for tuna but the Rich series was also known as Tuna Sun with the corresponding number.
When Stabroek News spoke with MARAD on Monday it had been working on identifying what the boats were doing in Trinidadian waters. Public Works Minister Robeson Benn stated that the vessels seemed to have been abandoned. The size of the fleet and the names suggest that there are others that are potentially still in operation.
This newspaper was not able to determine from MARAD if there were more vessels registered under Bejorie Ltd that currently do not have expired inspections. Previously, representatives from MARAD stated that they were almost a hundred percent sure that the vessels were not operating in Guyana. The registrations of all vessels need to go through MARAD however international fishing licences are the responsibility of the agriculture ministry. MARAD is also the body responsible for knowing where vessels are once they are registered as well as knowing what business they are conducting.
The presence of Taiwanese-owned vessels here in the backdrop of steadily growing Chinese influence in Georgetown has also raised interesting questions. China which considers Taiwan a renegade province is also thought to be eying fishing in Guyana’s deep sea.
Agriculture Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy recently denied that any Chinese investors have been granted deep sea fishing licences. There have been expressions of interest from the Chinese, however there has been no formal or written request made for any deep sea licences. Ramsammy had stated before that local fisher folk did not have to be concerned as the local market will take priority and that any licences will be granted only after careful scrutiny.
MARAD and the Fisheries Department are said to be meeting this week to establish the framework for a smoother working relationship which would see both departments under different ministries working in conjunction on overlapping matters.