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KEEPING MARITIME VIGIL AT TSTT NORTH POST RADIO

(Photo - Left to right Bernie Zindell hosted the North Post Team Nigel Davis,  Robert Mitchell and Gregory Redon at the Lure Restaurant Chaguaramas to meet with visiting boaters)

Accidents can happen at any place and time, however, being out at sea, can magnify a simple mishap into a calamity. Between 2006 and 2011 there were over 3500 shipping incidents and almost 3000 deaths at sea and we have one of the world’s worst 4 marine oil spills happened off the coast of Tobago when two oil tankers collided and one sank (read more about the Atlantic Empress at  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Atlantic_Empress)

Just this year, on December 6th, thirteen sailors were rescued from the icy waters of the North Sea after the BALTIC ACE cargo ship collided with another vessel off the Dutch coast. Six crew members remained unaccounted for in the wake of the disaster - which had already seen five bodies pulled from the water.

Senior Radio Operators at TSTT’s North Post Radio (NPR) like Nigel Davis, Robert Mitchell and Gregory Redon have the responsibility for manning Trinidad and Tobago’s first Rescue Co-ordination Centre. The facility observed a centennial as a Coastal Radio Station in 2010 and over the years has been involved in scores of search and rescue co-coordinating incidents in the Southern Caribbean.

Recently the North Post team was in Chaguaramas to meet with boat owners from North America and Europe for a discussion on safety at sea and the role the NPR plays for vessels in this jurisdiction.

NPR discharges Trinidad and Tobago’s responsibility under international maritime treaties - Safety of Life at Sea, SOLAS (1974), Search and Rescue, International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR 1979), as well as the United Nation’s Convention of the Laws of the Sea.

SOLAS is generally regarded as one of the most important international maritime treaties concerning the safety of merchant ships.The first version of the treaty was passed in 1914 in response to the sinking of the RMS Titanic. It prescribed numbers of lifeboats and other emergency equipment along with safety procedures, including continuous radio watches. The up-to-date list of amendments to SOLAS is maintained by theInternational Maritime Organisation (IMO).

 Although the obligation of ships to assist vessels in distress was enshrined in SOLAS (1974), there was, until the adoption of the SAR Convention, no international system covering search and rescue operations.

The Convention states that Parties should take measures to expedite entry of rescue units from other Parties into its territorial waters. The Convention also established preparatory measures which should be taken, including the establishment of rescue co-ordination centres and subcentres. It also outlines operating procedures to be followed in the event of emergencies or alerts and during SAR operations.

NPR’s powerful monitoring radios are an integral part of being able to cover the 62,500 square miles of maritime Search and Rescue jurisdiction it is responsible for. This area is more than 30 times the size of the combined land mass of Trinidad and Tobago.  

Even so, on numerous occasions NPR has also coordinated search and rescue operations beyond this area and has facilitated the rescuing of vessels in international waters by engaging maritime assets from La Guardia Nacional, Venezuela and Forte de France Radio, Martinique.

In another case, NPR coordinated a search and rescue mission in Guadeloupe, when vessel M/V DAN BOX sank. The operators maintained communication with the US Coast Guard and following a 14 hour ordeal, a US helicopter rescued seven people from the water.

North Post Radio was also involved in the search and rescue mission where vessel N/V SMIT MADEIRA sank off the South East Coast of Trinidad. That rescue effort lasted eight hours during which two crew members were rescued. Two others remain missing.

During their presentation to the international boaters in Chaguaramas, the NPR team disclosed that the station in manned twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, Mitchell assured that a trained official is always on hand to respond to distress and emergency calls. He however appealed to the boat owners to do their part to ensure their own safety while at sea.

“It is essential for boat owners to be proactive and have their vessels equipped with the necessary safety gear including VHF transceivers, GPS and other communications equipment, first aid kits, and life jackets for all onboard.”  Failure to comply with these regulations, he stated, could result in loss of vessels, cargo and even human life.

“The real objective of the North Post Radio Operators is to take the “search” out of search and rescue, and the only way we can achieve this is if boat operators fully complying with safety guidelines. Every minute counts and proper information can help determine how quickly stricken vessels are found,” said Davis.

ABOUT TSTT’s North Post Radio station:

vEstablished as an observation post in the 18th century.

vWireless Telegraph Coast Station

vGlobal Maritime Distress Safety System (GMDSS) A1 Coast Station

vNorth Post Radio discharges Trinidad and Tobago’s responsibility under SOLAS  (1974) and SAR (1979) treaties as well as the United Nation’s Convention of the Laws of the Sea.

vTrinidad and Tobago is classified as a Rescue Co-ordination Centre (RCC)

vThe International Maritime Organization has authorized Coast Stations (including North Post Radio) to divert any ocean going vessel to effect a rescue.