THE EDITOR: Despite all of the reports being churned out by the media regarding the fiasco of the Ocean Flower 2, there is still much that is not known by either the public or the journalists themselves. Utilizing the full weight of my position and the authority that comes with being a part-time member of staff at the Office of the Member of Parliament for Barataria/San Juan however, I was able do discern some rather useful information that I can now share with anyone who may be interested in learning it as well. For while it is almost universally understood and accepted that the Port Authority, and by extension, the government, blundered this matter in epic fashion, the truth which I discovered adds more flavor to the story and fully demonstrates the incompetence of both parties.
You see, while the nation was duly informed after the fact, that the Ocean Flower 2 was in dire need of repair after being inspected by in Panama, the truth of the matter it that this information had already been discerned TWICE by two separate international maritime authorities this year. On March 22nd 2017, the Ocean Flower II was still owned and operated by DAE-A Express Shipping in South Korea and used as a ferry between Busan, Korea and Tsushima, Japan. As such, it was scheduled for mandatory inspection at the Port of Hakata in Japan. During that inspection it was then discovered that the vessel was deficient in FIVE areas, including the navigation systems, emergency systems and fire systems. The vessel was not detained by the authority, and based on the continued deterioration it’s apparent that not much was done to repair these faults.
This is further established by the fact that during the voyage to Trinidad, which began on June 29th 2017, the Ocean Flower 2 was inspected and detained by the US Coast Guard in Dutch Harbor, Alaska for five days after it arrived there on July 14th 2017. During this inspection, it was again determined that the Ocean Flower 2 lacked proper maintenance which cause it to pose a fire hazard, and lacked the regulation life-craft required for such a vessel. While these issues were addressed in the presence of the inspector, along with a leak in the diesel engine which was repaired, there were still issues with the ventilation of the exhaust from the engine, as well as the aforementioned issue with the navigation that were not rectified. But I am sure that with the knowledge that this vessel was being brought to T&T, they felt three out of five issues fixed was a passing grade in our books.
So knowing this now, it further begs the question of who in their right mind would ever agree to commission this vessel to work in T&T. Because while the Port Authority has offered the excuse that no local inspector was able to travel to South Korea to perform the necessary examinations on the vessel before it was leased, the fact is that the Japanese inspection, which was performed only three months prior to the arrangement being made, should have indicated that the Ocean Flower 2 would not have been satisfactory. Because the information concerning the inspection conducted by the Japanese authorities is available to all maritime authorities, either by request, or though an online data repository, which I was able to access. So there should be no excuse for the absence of local inspection. But even if the management and staff at the Port Authority were grossly incompetent in their duties, it still does not explain them being unaware of the inspection by the US Coast Guard. This story only started ramping up after it was alleged that the vessel had disappeared from the radar in the waters off Japan for secret repairs. And it became evident that the Port Authority and the media were tracking the Ocean Flower 2 vigilantly as it made the remainder of it journey. So how then can it appear as anything other than a cover up, when in the week following those stories airing, that the vessel was actually recorded being inspected and repaired on US soil?
I am actually awaiting more information on this matter as this missive is being prepared. Because there is still one significant question about this entire matter that no one has yet asked. With that being said, I do hoe that this has provided you all with some added context so that you can better understand what really occurred. After I have accumulated all of the necessary information I will also be passing it on to the Integrity Commission for their investigations as well. Because people need to be held accountable for their actions, especially when the implications for the entire nation is so severe.