Armed robbery simulation tests responses to port emergencies

Police responding to the staged exercise as they detained two of the supposed gunmen and ordered them to lie face down on the ground.

A simulated armed robbery, in which hostages were also taken, was conducted yesterday to test the effectiveness of the response by various agencies, including the Joint Services, to port facility emergencies.

The John Fernandes Limited annual Port Security Exercise simulation, dubbed “Exercise Snapper 3,” was deemed to be a success as several areas were highlighted for improvement.

The exercise was designed to test the response of John Fernandes Limited Port Security Staff, officers of the Joint Services (Guyana Police Force, Guyana Defence Force and Guyana Fire Service), the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD), the Customs Anti-Narcotic Unit (CANU), Ministry of Health and MMC Security Services in a port facility emergency.

After its conclusion, a
de-briefing session was held where law enforcement officials shared and discussed the weaknesses noticed throughout the exercise and ways on how they can work towards addressing these areas.

The exercise commenced at the John Fernandes Wharf, Water Street around 9.05 am, when four men, seemingly armed with AK-47s, arrived at northern end of the complex through the Demerara River.

The supposed bandits held the security guard and several labourers on duty as hostages before they proceeded to open a sealed red container with a heavy duty bolt cutter. Once they entered, the men removed several garbage bags containing cash.

The information about the in-progress “crime” was passed via the radio from the wharf’s northern gate to the main security hut and the police were alerted. The alarm system was triggered and employees were ordered to immediately evacuate the building.

The police arrived on the scene approximately 20 minutes after the staged robbery commenced. The ranks, who were heavily armed, stood watch outside the complex before entering. They proceeded to containers that were being occupied by the armed invaders. Once close enough, the police successfully detained the four gunmen and freed the staff who were held hostage. The supposed gunmen were put to lie face down on the ground and were searched during which the officer in charge passed orders given to him via the radio system on how to proceed.

The supposed gunmen were later placed individually into the police van and were taken away from the scene. Shortly after they left, ranks from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) responded and the area was cordoned off as a crime scene as they carried out their investigations.

While the police responded to the mock crime scene, two GDF coast guard boats were seen patrolling in the river.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of John Fernandes, Philip Fernandes, during his brief remarks at the de-briefing session, said the exercise was professionally managed and successful. He said the exercise served its purpose, which was to highlight areas of weakness so that they can be improved on.

He said that several such areas were identified and will be worked on. “What we did today was very effective, very important and no doubt it will serve the staff very well for the future,” he said.

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