March 4, 2010

Haiti official: Sea Hunter can offload its cargo

By Bill Nemitz

Updated at 4:39 p.m.

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Lewiston native Fr. Marc Boisvert, center, and Sea Hunter owner Greg Brooks of Gorham walk from one meeting with government officials to another today in Les Cayes, Haiti.

Bill Nemitz/Staff Columnist

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Chief engineer Brian Ryder of West Bath, left, and volunteer Rick Woodbury of Scarborough set the Sea Hunter’s anchor Tuesday off the Haitian port of Les Cayes.

Bill Nemitz/Staff Columnist

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LES CAYES, HAITI — Government officials here, after hours of meetings with a delegation from the Maine ship Sea Hunter, gave permission this afternoon for the ship to come into the local harbor and prepare to offload its 200 tons of relief supplies for earthquake refugees.

“You’ve got it. No problem,” said Joseph Yves Aubourg, the regional delegate to Haiti’s federal government, when asked through an interpreter whether the Sea Hunter finally was authorized to deliver its food, clothing, medical supplies and other goods.

Aubourg’s comment came after three hours of meetings involving himself, Les Cayes Mayor Pierre Yvon Chery, Sea Hunter owner Greg Brooks, ship Captain Gary Esper and Fr. Marc Boisvert, founder of Hope Village on the outskirts of Les Cayes.

Under the plan hammered out this afternoon, a local customs official will board the Sea Hunter when it comes into port Thurdsay at 7 a.m.

Once that official has had a chance to verify that the supplies aboard the ship match those listed in packing lists handed over today, the offloading can begin, Auborg said.

Officials agreed that the contents of 10 20-foot containers aboard the Sea Hunter will all go to Hope Village, an orphanage and community assistance program founded by Boisvert, a native of Lewiston.

Other donated supplies inside the Sea Hunter’s two cargo holds will go to the city of Les Cayes.

Still unclear is how close the Sea Hunter actually can get to Les Cayes’ only functioning dock, which is blocked by several submerged shipwrecks.

“We’ll have to sound (the bottom) ourselves” as the Sea Hunter enters the harbor, said Esper. “We can’t take the risk of losing the ship.”

The Sea Hunter has been at anchor since Tuesday near the island of Ile a Vache, seven miles off Les Cayes.

1 a.m.

ABOARD THE SEA HUNTER - Thirty days after it left Portland Harbor on a humanitarian mission to Haiti, the Maine relief ship Sea Hunter dropped anchor Tuesday near its primary destination, Les Cayes.

"I'm still apprehensive," said the ship's owner, Greg Brooks of Gorham, as the ship stopped for the day at Ile a Vache, an island seven miles off Les Cayes. "Until everything happens, I'm going to be skeptical about all of this."

Brooks planned to meet early this morning with officials in Les Cayes to devise a plan for offloading nearly 200 tons of supplies for refugees from the earthquake that struck Haiti on Jan. 12.

Also waiting at the port will be the Rev. Marc Boisvert, a Lewiston-born Roman Catholic priest who founded and operates Hope Village, an orphanage and community assistance program on the outskirts of Les Cayes.

"Our goal is to get (the local government's) approval," Brooks said. "As soon as we talk to them, if it's a go, then we're going to pull it right up in there and start opening up containers."

But Brooks, who has encountered numerous obstacles in his month-long quest to bring help to Haiti's earthquake victims, said he anticipates a delicate balancing act.

Originally, all of the food, clothing, medical supplies and other items stuffed into 10 20-foot containers on the Sea Hunter's main deck, along with 80 tons of donations from people all over Maine in the ship's two cargo holds, were to go to Hope Village.

But after talking with local officials by cell phone, Felix Vital, the Sea Hunter's interpreter, told Brooks that the mayor of Les Cayes and the region's delegate to Haiti's parliament want some of the aid to go directly to the city.

"Part of the deal is that we're going to give some of the stuff to the town because we want them to supply the labor to offload," Brooks said. "They said they're going to donate a good portion of that to the people in Port-au-Prince. And they also have refugees from the earthquake who need help here in Les Cayes."

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Capt. Gary Esper of Hopkinton, Mass., right, and volunteer shipmaster Kevin Garthwaite of Wells guide the Sea Hunter to its anchorage Tuesday off the Haitian port of Les Cayes

Bill Nemitz/Staff Columnist


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