Tighter restrictions for fishing vessels as probe completed into disappearance of fishermen


More than a month after three fishermen disappeared off the coast of the Mahaica River, a Board of Inquiry (BoI) which was established to investigate the incident has completed its work.

But the findings of the probe was not revealed to the media on Thursday when the official report was handed over to the Public Works Minister Juan Edghill.

The minister, however, promised to disclose the findings in two-days time but he said that the government will be moving to enforce the regulations governing the fishing industry.

This will include the inspection of vessels before they go out to sea, training fishermen in safety, and ensuring they are licensed. Additionally, the operations of the Maritime Administration Department will be examined more closely.

“As a result of this incident there can be no guessing, it will not be business as usual as it relates to the regulatory framework in which the fishing industry operates in Guyana and the use of waterways and what they do and how they do it,” Minister Edghill revealed.

Captain John Flores hands over the report to Minister of Public Works Juan Edghill (Photo: News Room/March 24, 2022)

The Noble House Seafood vessel reportedly sank on February 19 near the Mahaica River and after a month of searching for the three fishermen on board, the authorities officially suspended the mission on March 21.

Those who remain missing are Captain Harold Damon, Winston Sam and Ronald Burton. There was only one survivor identified as Vincent Dazzell.

“I expect that somewhere along the line that based on the report that came in, based on my own thoughts and expectations, culpability or lack of culpability must be established, action must be taken as to the incident that occurred and to ensure that such an incident does not happen again,” Edghill said.

Meanwhile, it was also discovered that the captain of the vessel was not properly licensed and that neither the captain nor the crew had any certification or training in terms of safety and responding to emergencies.

It was further revealed that the vessel was in dry dock for some time, but no official from MARAD cleared the vessel to be used at sea.

“There is no record to show if this boat was adequately inspected by a marine surveyor,” Edghill stated.

It was also revealed that two other fishing vessels attached to Noble House Seafood were found to be in operation but no record of those vessels could be found. Edghill said that the licensing systems for fishing vessels will also be investigated.

The minister could not say if Noble House Seafood will be facing any culpability for not reporting the May Day call from the fishermen. It was some nine hours after the call that the authorities were informed, thereby significantly delaying the rescue response.

However, he was keen to note that once negligence is established, advice will be sought from the Attorney General going forward.

Edghill said that an overall strengthening of the system will be examined. There are currently five marine investigators to cater for the almost 2000 fishing vessels.


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