March 3, 2010

Sea Hunter arrives at 2nd Haitian port

If all goes as planned, the ship will spend the next few days offloading almost 200 tons of food, clothing, medicine and other relief supplies onto small vessels here.

By Bill Nemitz

Updated at 12:15 p.m.

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Captain Gary Esper of Hopkinton, Mass., right, and volunteer Shipmaster Kevin Garthwaite of Wells guide the Sea Hunter to its anchorage this morning off the Haitian port of Les Cayes.

Bill Nemitz/Columnist

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Additional Photos Below

ABOARD THE SEA HUNTER — The Maine relief ship Sea Hunter arrived this morning off the Haitian port of Les Cayes, its primary destination on a humanitarian mission that began 30 days ago in Portland Harbor.

“I’m still apprehensive,” said ship owner Greg Brooks as the Sea Hunter approached the city’s harbor. “Until everything happens, I’m going to be skeptical about all of this.”

Ship Captain Gary Esper said the Sea Hunter will anchor for now off the island of Ile a Vache before plotting a course through underwater reefs into the harbor at Les Cayes.

If all goes as planned, the Sea Hunter will spend the next few days offloading almost 200 tons of food, clothing, medicine and other relief supplies onto small vessels here.

Because Les Cayes’ only dock has been blocked for years by several sunken ships, the Sea Hunter is unable to transfer its cargo directly onshore.

The Sea Hunter sailed through the night to Les Cayes from the port of Miragoane, where repeated attempts to offload 12 large pieces of cargo onto a deep-water dock proved fruitless.

The large cargo included 10 20-foot containers, filled with relief supplies by the Florida-based charity Cross International.

The containers and their contents are earmarked for Hope Village, an orphanage and community assistance program in Les Cayes.
Also still aboard the ship are a 37-foot mobile medical unit and a solar-powered water desalinator, intended respectively for a hospital 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 occur.

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

That position changed suddenly – and belatedly – this morning.

Fr. Marc Boisvert, a Lewiston native who founded and operates Hope Village, notified Brooks by telephone that Haitian President Rene Preval had personally intervened in the matter.

Preval ordered that the Sea Hunter be allowed to dock and offload its large cargo in Miragaone without further delay, Boisvert told Brooks.

But with the ship approaching Les Cayes at that point, Boisvert and Brooks agreed to stick with their latest plan and offload the containers item-by-item 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 at the deep-water port of Jacmel.

Jacmel, located on Haiti’s southeast coast, would be a seven-hour voyage east from Les Cayes.

“It’s a long way,” said Brooks. “But we’re considering it as a possibility.”

12 a.m.

Unable to dock Haiti relief ship sails on

MIRAGOANE, Haiti - The Maine relief ship Sea Hunter, unable to get government clearance to offload 12 pieces of heavy cargo at the deep-water port here, abandoned the effort late Monday and sailed for the southern coastal port of Les Cayes.

"We've done everything possible to get these things ashore," the ship's owner, Greg Brooks of Gorham, told his crew and volunteers after two trips ashore.

Both times he aimed to secure permission to offload 10 20-foot containers, a mobile medical unit and a solar-powered water desalinator. And in the end, both efforts proved futile.

"We can't just sit here and sit here and sit here," Brooks said on the ship's fourth day in the harbor. "It's come to the point where everybody's hiding from us."

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Sea Hunter owner Greg Brooks rides Monday morning through the Haitian port of Miragoane in search of permission to offload the relief ship’s 10 containers and other large cargo. Above, the Maine relief ship sits at anchor.

Bill Nemitz/Columnist

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Sea Hunter owner Greg Brooks, left, and Captain Gary Esper, center, listen while Guerda Michel, CEO of Guerda Terminal Inc., speaks with dockworkers Monday afternoon at the Haitian port of Miragoane.

Bill Nemitz/Columnist


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