Stronger regulatory framework for fishing industry – Minister Edghill

─ receives BoI report into marine incident

The regulatory framework governing the fishing industry and the use of Guyana’s waterways will have to be examined to ensure safety remains a priority.

Minister of Public Works Bishop Juan Edghill said going forward there can be no guessing or business as usual as it relates to that matter.

The announcement was made Thursday after receiving the report of the Board of Inquiry into the marine incident that left three fishermen missing. The report was received from Chairman of the Board, Captain John Flores.

Minister of Public Works, Bishop Juan Edghill receiving the BoI report from Chairman of the Board, Captain John Flores

Minister Edghill said strong minimal standards will be established to ensure safety and the capacity to respond to such incidents are clearly defined.

“Some of the things that were established was that a call was received at Noble House early the morning indicating that the boat was taking in water. The Maritime Administration, whether it is contacting officers or the Light House, they were not notified until several hours after,” Minister Edghill said.

That failure, he said, resulted in a significant delay in the rescue response mechanism of the state. The minister said the captain of the vessel was not issued a licence by the Maritime Administration (MARAD). In fact, there is no record that he was licenced to operate the vessel. The findings, he said, will see the examination of the licencing system at MARAD.

“I was advised by the Board of Inquiry when they briefed me that neither the captain nor the crew had any certification or training in terms of safety and responding to emergencies and things of that nature… and if there was not a requirement for training, then we have to start looking at safeguarding the welfare and the lives of people before we put them out there in dangerous waters,” he relayed.

The minister said he understands the vessel went into dry dock, but was not inspected or recorded by MARAD. He said it means there is no evidence that a certified marine surveyor, surveyed the boat and indicated that it was sea worthy.

“So, a boat that has disappeared and gone down, we do not know because there is no record to show if this boat was adequately inspected by a competent marine surveyor, deficiencies were found or not found, corrective action was taken or corrective action was not taken but the company would have indicated that it went into dry dock. And the company has shown no evidence to the Board of Inquiry that they have in their employ someone of the competence as a marine surveyor to certify the quality of a vessel in and out of dry dock to ensure that all the corrective measures were done,” the Minister stated.

It was also brought to light by the public works minister that there are about 1800 registered vessels and 87 trawlers that use the waterways, which indicate that thousands of people are on the waterways on a daily basis. With that, he stressed that the matter is not a small one and that things that were taken for granted will be looked into.

Minister of Public Works, Bishop Juan Edghill and members of the Board addressing the media

Minister Edghill said he has made it clear that no vessel or individual using the vessels must go into Guyana’s waters if they are not properly licenced. Additionally, members of the board were able to review MARAD’s systems and have made a number of findings and recommendations.

Minister Edghill said he will take the next two days to review the report in detail after which it will be released to the families of the missing fishermen, Noble House and the media. The search for the three fishermen who went missing after the Noble House Seafoods trawler sank on February 19 near the Mahaica River, has since been suspended. Missing are Captain Harold Damon, Winston Sam and Ronald Burton. Vincent Dazzell is the lone survivor.