Company did not report distress on sunken fishing vessel; search ongoing for fishermen
Three fishermen are feared dead after a Noble House Seafoods trawler reportedly sank early Saturday morning but government officials have lamented that the company did not report that the vessel was in distress and as such, assistance was not immediately mobilised.
The men feared dead are: Captain Harold Damon, Winston Sam and Ronald Burton. The trio alongside another seaman, Vincent Dazzell, were working aboard a seabob trawler owned by Nobel House Seafoods. Dazzell was rescued by another vessel but the others were not so lucky.
“Our understanding is that there was no information passed on to the lighthouse or MARAD (Maritime Administration) so it was approximately 24-hrs before there was any official knowledge of the incident,” Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn told members of the media on Monday during a press conference.
The incident reportedly occurred at around 06:00 hrs on Saturday near the Mahaica River on the East Coast of Demerara. Based on a recount given by Dazzell, the boat was becoming inundated and Captain Damon radioed the company for assistance.
After the vessel capsized, Dazzell managed to escape. He, however, stated that the other crew members appeared to be trapped under the vessel and could not be saved.
Minister Benn said that later Saturday night, Dazzell reported the issue to the Mahaica police station. It was not until the following morning, however, that reports were made to the relevant marine authorities including the Coast Guard.
The minister also said that (MARAD, an agency of the Ministry of Public Works, has no record of any reported distress from this vessel.
Meanwhile, at Monday’s media briefing, the Director General of MARAD Stephen Thomas explained that all vessels are required to issue a distress signal on an emergency channel if they are experiencing difficulties at sea.
This emergency channel is connected to the numerous response agencies that could immediately coordinate assistance. And Thomas said this system operates 24 hours.
“If we had gotten a report, we would have informed vessels that there is a vessel with a potential problem and they would’ve started closing in,” Thomas highlighted.
On Sunday night, the Ministry of Public Works announced that a search and rescue team has been engaged to find the men. Minister Benn reported that a vessel from MARAD and two divers, alongside an aerial search team were tasked with finding the men.
There has been no update on the men.
Meanwhile, a Board of Inquiry has since been instituted to investigate the entire incident. In 14 days, this Board is expected to report on what prevented the company from reporting that the vessel was in distress.
Minister within the Ministry of Public Works Deodat Indar said that a thorough investigation will be done, particularly since this situation is so grave.
The members of this Board of Inquiry are: Yulander Hughes from the Transport and Harbours Department, Captain John Flores from the Maritime Administration Department, Ronald Charles from the Ministry of Public Works, Lt. Rawle Williams from the Coast Guard, Senior Superintendent Ewart Wray from the Guyana Police Force- Marine Unit, Dwayne Vhypius from the Ministry of Labour and Denzil Roberts who is the Head of the Fisheries Department at the Ministry of Agriculture.
Families of the men have raised concerns about the apparent dilapidated nature of the company’s vessels. The Board is also expected to report on the condition of the vessel and when it was last inspected.
Routine inspections are expected every 12 months. When contacted, Noble House Seafoods told the News Room that due to the nature of the incident, they prefer if all comments are given through their attorney.