Vessel in DHB collision leaves Guyana without notifying authorities

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana

Pursuant to a court order dated November 11, MT Tradewind Passion—the fuel tanker that crashed into the Demerara Harbour Bridge, resulting in GY$1 billion and counting in damages to the 44-year-old floating structure, has left Guyana, but without notifying the relevant authorities.

This was revealed by Public Works Minister Juan Edghill in a Facebook post on Saturday.After the October 8 collision, the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation (DHBC) filed an application to arrest the vessel, which was granted the said day by the High Court.

“Consequent upon these court orders, and without notification to the General Manager and Management of the Demerara Harbour Bridge, the Tradewind Passion sailed on Monday 21st November 2022. It should never be inferred that the State of Guyana through its regulatory agencies has no control over its waters and marine traffic. To make such inferences is mischievous, ridiculous, and deliberately misleading,” Minister Edghill said.

According to him, any ocean-going vessel set to depart Guyana’s waters cannot just sail into the sunset at will but instead has to initiate the required processes which are done by a shipping agency. He, therefore, said it is “absurd” for one to assume “that a vessel like the Tradewind Passion, which is currently the subject of court action would not be monitored.”

High Court Judge Fidela Corbin-Lincoln ordered the release of the vessel on the condition that its owner, Canama Trading S De RL, a company registered in Panama set up a limitation fund in the sum of $245.5 million, through a letter of undertaking by Steamship Mutual—a leading provider of Protection & Indemnity (P&I) insurance headquartered in London, United Kingdom (UK).The letter of undertaking had to be lodged with the Supreme Court of Judicature’s registrar.

Edghill noted that there was no actual payment of money to the court. According to the Judge’s order, upon the constitution of the limitation fund, the DHBC must allow the vessel to return to service and leave Guyana forthwith, failing which it would be held in contempt of court.

The Public Works Minister has nevertheless assured that the Government will continue to vigorously pursue its claims in this matter to ensure that the Demerara Harbour Bridge is justly compensated for the damages caused by the Tradewind Passion.

The DHBC has filed an over-a-billion-dollar lawsuit against the owner of the vessel which has refused to compensate the corporation for repair works carried out on the bridge.

This is despite several oral requests for payment.Further, the corporation is seeking GY$50 million in damages for negligence since the master of the vessel was negligent by not exercising the relevant international safety conventions for safety at sea. It said that the master did not apply the applicable speed necessary in the prevailing circumstances.

Due to the negligence of the master and the vessel’s crew, the DHBC complained that it has suffered and will continue to suffer extensive losses.

According to the DHBC, the vessel’s master was negligent since he failed to sail at a safe speed; failed to report difficulties being encountered upon approaching the bridge; and failed to use reasonable care and skill in its operation so that the fuel tanker could veer away from, thereby avoiding collision with the bridge. At the time, the vessel was under the control and command of Captain Freddy Mendoza, advised by Pilot Kenneth Cort, who a Board of Inquiry (BoI) into the collision has recommended be suspended for not less than 24 months.

Cort has some two decades of experience.The DHBC is also suing for projected works it will have to carry out on the bridge.The claim was filed by PPP/C parliamentarian, Attorney-at-Law Sanjeev Datadin.

Meanwhile, Canama Trading S De RL has countersued the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD), Harbour Master Glasford Archer, and the DHBC for more than $100,000 in damages for the unlawful detention of its vessel. It contended that the detention of the vessel, without an application pursuant to Section 439 (1) of Guyana’s Shipping Act being made to the court, constitutes a wrongful and unlawful deprivation, detention, interference with, trespass upon, restraint, or imprisonment of its property and the crew of the vessel. The company is claiming loss of use of the vessel at a daily rate of US$12,250.

Justice Corbin-Lincoln has granted Canama Trading S De RL’s request to argue limitation of liability pursuant to Section 402 of Guyana’s Shipping Act as a defence to the DHBC’s lawsuit.

According to the company, it reserves all rights to contest any sums claimed by the DHBC, whether on grounds of failure to mitigate, or otherwise.

Reports indicate that at around 02:00h on October 8, the vessel which transports fuel for the Guyana Oil Company (GuyOil), while heading south, crashed into the Demerara Harbour Bridge, despite desperate calls to ‘drop anchor’ from the Shift Supervisor, Andy Duke.

Duke, who was in one of the lookout towers, tried desperately to communicate with the pilot without success. He eventually had to jump from the booth to save his own life. He fractured his leg in the process and was hospitalised. The other men who were working at the bottom of the bridge, including Mechanical Maintenance Engineer Ahmad Khan, had to run for their lives.

The collision caused extensive damage to critical components of the Demerara Harbour Bridge, which not only left it inoperable but resulted in thousands of passengers and tons of agricultural produce stranded on both sides of the Demerara River.

While repairs were being carried out on the bridge which was reopened on October 10, water taxis which normally operate for 12 hours, were allowed to work for 24 hours.