March 3, 2010

Owner of Sea Hunter at the end of his rope

By Bill Nemitz

MIRAGOANE, Haiti – Saturday, like so many before it, was not a good day for Greg Brooks.

click image to enlarge

A fisherman from the Haitian port of Miragoane peddles his catch Saturday morning alongside the Sea Hunter. The ship’s owner has been trying since Thursday to unload his cargo.

Bill Nemitz/Staff Columnist

The owner of the Maine relief ship Sea Hunter had hoped to obtain government permission to offload a dozen large items at the deep-water dock here before sailing on to the port of Les Cayes on Haiti's southern coast.

Instead, Brooks and his crew spent yet another day at anchor, waiting for a call that never came.

''I'm not waiting anymore. We've been waiting long enough,'' said an angry Brooks. ''Monday is the last day I'm giving them.''

If clearance from Haiti's customs agency is not received by then, Brooks said, he will give up on his attempt to offload 10 20-foot containers filled with relief supplies, as well as a large medical mobile unit and a solar-powered water desalinator.

Instead, Brooks said, he will sail on to Les Cayes, which lacks dockage with water deep enough for the Sea Hunter, and invite Haitians in small vessels to offload as much of the ship's cargo as they can.

''And then if we have to, we'll take the medical unit and the water maker back to Maine,'' Brooks said.

Asked what he'll do with the large metal containers, assuming they're emptied item-by-item in Les Cayes, Brooks shrugged and flashed a weary smile.

''Build an artificial reef somewhere,'' he said. ''Something environmentally friendly.''

The Sea Hunter arrived here late Thursday after sailing for two and a half days from Miami.

The original plan was to spend Friday offloading the 10 containers, which would then be trucked just 57 miles to Hope Village, an orphanage and community assistance program in Les Cayes.

The Sea Hunter would then sail one more day to Les Cayes, where some 80 tons of smaller items filling part of its deck and two cargo holds would be transferred to smaller vessels for transport ashore.

But on Friday afternoon, Hope Village founder and operator the Rev. Marc Boisvert said in an e-mail to the Sea Hunter that his assistant had to go to Port-au-Prince and receive approval from Haiti's general director of customs before the offloading could begin.

Boisvert, a Lewiston native who spent several days last week trying to secure customs clearance in anticipation of the Sea Hunter's arrival, could not be reached Saturday for further explanation on what went wrong.

Also scheduled to be taken off the ship were the medical mobile unit, donated to the Portland organization Konbit Sante by the Maine Migrant Health Program, and the water desalinator, donated to a church-orphanage near Port-au-Prince by New Jersey-based WorldWater & Solar Technologies.

''Pastor Bob'' Lefranc of the Light and Peace Mission in the village of Bon-Repos came aboard the Sea Hunter on Friday to lay claim to the water desalinator.

Pastor Bob promised at the time to obtain customs clearance for the Sea Hunter by Saturday or today ''at the latest.'' The Sea Hunter, however, hasn't heard from him since.

As for the medical mobile unit, bound for a hospital and health program in Cap Haitien on Haiti's north coast, Brooks received an e-mail early Saturday evening from Marianne Ringel, program specialist for Konbit Sante.

''I understand you are now (finally!) en route to Haiti -- do you know where and when you are going to put into port?'' wrote Ringel. ''We need to figure out what to do with the mobile medical unit.''

Brooks said he had hoped to hear earlier from officials at Konbit Sante, with whom he's had no contact since the Sea Hunter left Portland Harbor a month ago today.

With no one currently in Miragoane to claim the 37-foot Kodiak vehicle, Brooks said, he'll probably ask Pastor Bob to take it to Bon-Repos -- assuming the mobile medical unit gets off the ship.

(Continued on page 2)

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