During the mandatory antidrug underwater inspections in Venezuela prior to sailing, an increasing number of alleged incidents has been recorded, according to Venezuela’s P&I correspondent Venepandi.
Namely, Masters of the ships being inspected were subject to extort and blackmail by the divers appointed by the terminals.
Venezuelan local authorities established mandatory underwater inspections prior to sail overseas a few years ago within the efforts to fight drug smuggling. The inspections were introduced due to the recurring incidents with narcotics or other foreign objects being either attached to the ship’s hull, placed in the rudder trunk or inside any grid.
The inspections must be usually covered by the terminal and the diving crew or company is also appointed by the terminal.
“Unfortunately, we’ve recorded an increase number of incidents in some ports locally (specially Puerto Ordaz and Puerto la Cruz) with divers reporting, upon completion of the inspection, that either nuts, bolts and/or pin lock were found missing with the subsequent request to the Master to pay in cash to replace all the missing parts prior vessel departure or, in case of refusal, request the authorities to arrest the vessel on a basis that the underwater areas were ready to place foreign objects such as drugs,” Venepandi informed.
The authority further said that the divers could be a possible cause for the parts to be missing and that therefore they have been doing this practice as a way to extort the vessels and receive extra cash in foreign currency for carrying out the parts replacement.
To prevent such incidents from taking place, Venepandi informed that if no objects were found, the Master may simply refuse to pay the divers for the reinstalling of the parts as the ship-owners have the right to repair the ship anywhere else.
Additionally, a verification may be conducted, with the presence of the National Guard if possible, upon each diver in order to ensure that they do not carry any tool they could use to remove the parts and blackmail the Master later.
Further measures include appointing private divers and informing the P&I correspondent immediately in order to ensure that proper actions are taken timely and delays or arrest upon the vessels are avoided.