March 4, 2010

Haiti official: Sea Hunter can offload its cargo

By Bill Nemitz

(Continued from page 1)

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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

Additional Photos Below

Vital said that if all of the aid passed through Les Cayes for storage and distribution at Hope Village, it could create a political and bureaucratic backlash both for Boisvert and Brooks.

"It is my opinion that it would be better for Father Marc this way," said Vital, 29, who grew up on Ile a Vache and has spent much of his adult life in Les Cayes.

Brooks said he spoke with Boisvert on Wednesday about diverting some of the relief supplies directly to the community.

"He agrees with that," Brooks said. "He said, 'Whatever makes it work.'"

Because Les Cayes' only dock has been blocked for years by several sunken ships, the Sea Hunter's crew cannot transfer its cargo directly onshore.

Instead, the supplies must be transferred parcel-by-parcel to smaller vessels, which will then ferry them ashore.

The Sea Hunter sailed through Monday night to Les Cayes from the port of Miragoane, where repeated attempts to offload the containers and two other large pieces of cargo onto a deep-water dock proved fruitless.

Still aboard the ship, in addition to the containers, are a 37-foot mobile medical unit and a solar-powered water desalinator -- donated, respectively, to a regional health program in northern Haiti and a church-orphanage near Port-au-Prince.

As the Sea Hunter sat at anchor for four days in Miragoane, Haitian customs officials insisted that a formal cargo manifest, listing all of the donated items aboard, be hand-delivered to the central customs bureau in Port-au-Prince before any offloading could commence.

Some 35 pages of packing lists and other documentation, provided to the Sea Hunter by various organizations that put donated materials aboard the ship, were deemed inadequate by Haitian officials because they were not consolidated into a single manifest.

That position changed suddenly -- and belatedly -- Tuesday morning.

Boisvert notified Brooks by satellite phone from Hope Village that Haitian President Rene Preval had personally intervened in the matter.

"Preval said that we should be allowed to go into Miragoane and offload all of the big stuff without any more delay," Brooks said. "Can you believe that?"

But with the ship already approaching Les Cayes by that time, Boisvert and Brooks agreed to stick with their latest plan and empty the containers here.

Given the apparent softening of the Haitian government's demands, Brooks said the Sea Hunter might make one last attempt to offload the medical unit, the water desalinator and the 10 (by-then-empty) containers.

Early Tuesday, he was considering an additional seven-hour sail east to the deep-water port of Jacmel. But after plotting that course later in the day, Brooks decided it would take too long and consume too much fuel.

"So when we're done here, we might make one more try with Miragoane," he said.

Brooks vowed that before that happens, he'll want the government's ironclad promise of tighter security in Miragoane.

Before leaving that port Monday, a delegation from the Sea Hunter beat a hasty retreat back to the ship after dockworkers voiced anger that the relief supplies were going to Les Cayes rather than to their community.

Brooks said any return trip to Miragoane "will have to be worked out here (in Les Cayes) -- way ahead of time."

"Otherwise we're not going into that place," he said. "There are too many rowdy people up there."


Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:


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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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