April 30, 2010
Robin vows full investigation of vessel’s disappearance

A full investigation is expected to be launched by the Maritime Administration into the seeming disappearance of the vessel Union Express which left Trinidad on April 1, but did not arrive at its final destination, Union Island, until some 2 days later.{{more}}

This is the assurance of David Robin, Director of the Maritime Administration, who told SEARCHLIGHT that the matter had been brought to the attention of his office.

The saga began when the vessel left Port-of-Spain, Trinidad at 4:30pm on April 1 with the expectancy of arriving at its final destination some 14 hours later.

The trip continued for hours with no one knowing for certain where the vessel was located.

The drama ended happily with the vessel being assisted by local Coast Guard authorities so that it could be refueled and make its way to its original destination after drifting as far north as Martinique.

The story has prompted questions about regulations for vessels such as the Union Express.

According to Robin, vessels are required to undergo a series of inspections before being certified to sail under the flagship of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

These include the routine documentation, including application letters and proof of ownership.

“Certificates are issued, but not for a period of more than a certain amount of years,” Robin explained.

Cargo and passenger vessels for example are certified for periods of no more than 5 years, Robin said.

However, they are required to undergo annual flagship inspections, following which intermediate inspections are required on the second or third anniversary of the initial issuance of the certification.

Typical inspections deal with all aspects of the vessels, including navigation equipment, the engine, the generator and electrical power on the vessel.

This, according to Robin, is done by a certified governing authority body.

Local maritime regulations also include persons authorized to operate the vessel, and according to the maritime director, certificates are awarded outlining the conditions for operation of the vessel.

Meanwhile, local Coast Guard officials acknowledged that assistance was given to the vessel.

Commander Brenton Caine told SEARCHLIGHT that they were summoned to offer the captain assistance to Layou.

While he was not in a position to determine what may have gone wrong, Commander Caine noted that in instances such as this, it was common for regional Coast Guard authorities to correspond.

He noted that Trinidad and Tobago is the coordinator for search and rescue operations.

“If the task is too big, we are often in collaboration with each other,” he said.