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—-MP Walton-Desir urges Gov’t
Opposition Member of Parliament, Amanza Walton-Desir has rubbished the explanation proffered by the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD), in attempt to distance itself and the country by extension from the Guyana-flagged ship which was seized in Senegal with US$5.2M in ammunition.
“Something stinks in Port Georgetown. We might need another “operation clean-up,” MP Walton-Desir said in a statement on Friday, as she explained in detail the regulatory framework governing the registration of ships in Guyana, including that of Eolika – which was found with three containers of ammunition destined for Guyana.
The discovery was made early this month in the Port of Dakar, and according to the vessel’s tracking information, it was en route to Port Georgetown and was due to arrive here on January 28, 2022 at 12:00hrs.
News of the ammunition on board the vessel was met with an almost immediate response from MARAD, which in a statement, disclosed that Eolika’s registration expired on December 10, 2021.
“The vessel in question is not contained in the local ships’ registry and it is believed that registration documents were issued by International Maritime Safety Agency of Guyana (IMSAG), an entity with which the administration had severed all ties since 13th August, 2021,” MARAD said in a statement.
But the explanation proffered did not sit well with the APNU+AFC MP, who has a Master’s in International Maritime Law.
Providing documentary evidence, MP Walton-Desir pointed out the Guyana Shipping (Registration of Ships) Regulations set out the framework for the registration of ships in Guyana.
“Regulation 17 addresses the scenario where a ship becomes entitled to be registered and it is not in its home country. That regulation provides that if a Guyanese ship is at sea or a foreign port when it becomes entitled or due to be registered, a proper officer (that is, an officer authorised to perform the registration function) may issue a provisional certificate,” she explained.
It was noted too that Regulation 17 also provides for the issuance of provisional Certificate of Registration to ship until it arrives at a Guyana Port or after the expiration of 6 months, whichever first happens. Such regulations, she said, are common throughout the world, and are intended to make sure that vessels traversing the high seas are registered to a particular State.
“The nationality of vessels provides an important basis for maintaining order on the high seas. It is therefore disrespectful to the people of Guyana for the government to issue a release which suggests that the expiration of EOLIKA’s registration one month ago, somehow absolves the Administration and renders the vessel of no concern to Guyana” MP Walton-Desir said.
Further, she said MARAD could not have simply sever all ties with IMSAG on August 9, 2021 after it would have granted the international body authority to register vessels on its behalf with effect from February 12, 2021. Notably, authorisation requires a minimum notice period of twelve (12) months by either party for withdrawal of the authorisation.
“On May 28, 2021, the Director General of MARAD via letter informed the Secretary General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). On November 11, 2021, IMSAG sent out correspondence to “All the Port State Controls and Relevant Authorities” with the subject ‘Representation Administration of International Ship Registry of Guyana by IMSAG’ in which IMSAG confirmed its representation of Guyana.
If one were to give MARAD the benefit of the doubt, that there was a severance of the agreement on August 10, 2021, in keeping with the terms of the agreement that severance would only be effective from August 9, 2022,” she reasoned.
The Opposition MP believes that the Government is lying to the people of Guyana about the vessel.
She is therefore calling on the Government to disclose the correspondence terminating the agreement with IMSAG and for the registration information of all vessels flying the Guyana flag under this so-called Guyana International Ship Registry being administered by IMSAG.
“The implications of this situation are dire,” she pointed while contending that the Government continues to demonstrate its incompetence to conduct foreign affairs, maintain law and order and meet the obligation of international treaties to which the country is party.