Armed robbers are climbing on board ships anchored in the vicinity of Barcelona City, Venezuela, under cover of darkness. There have been cases in which the crew has been gagged, threatened with high caliber weapons and crew members have been beaten. Local authorities have discouraged owners from reporting these incidents to P&I clubs to avoid panicking crew members of other ships.
According to the Skuld Club, Venezuelan P&I correspondent Venepandi says that the bandits are taking advantage of darkness, lack of vigilance and that the port is located in an uninhabited area far from the city, harbour and naval bases.
If vessels waiting for berth in Jose and other oil terminals in the area are ordered to anchor in the vicinity of Barcelona City, the master should reject such an order. It is suggested that the Master says that the vessel will proceed to anchor in Bahia de Pozuelos in the vicinity of Puerto la Cruz city.
Owners should be aware that these people are willing to kill if necessary, says Venepandi.The best precaution is to avoid these incidents from arising.
Venepandi’s suggestions are:
- Always anchor in the Bahia de Pozuelos near the site of Guaraguao, in front of the city of Puerto la Cruz.
- Have 24-hour surveillance on the main deck or the bridge.
- Point searchlights at boats with several persons on board near the vessel to let them know that they are under observation.
- Warn the harbor master and shipping agency at once; if no answer, call your P&I representative.
- If a boat or boats do not back down, use the whistle.
- If these pirates or bandits succeed in getting on board, do not offer any resistance. Do as instructed by the intruders, since, aside from being armed, they may be under the influence of drugs and are usually aggressive.
- If possible, report immediately to local P&I correspondent for help contacting and dealing with the National Guard, Army etc.
Venepandi is working together with the local authorities to stop this situation which is now intensifying. The head of the port is warning masters and asking them to use a signal so that other vessels are notified. The alerting signal consists of five long whistle blasts at intervals of one second for every blast and waiting roughly 10 seconds for the next signal.
The boats are small fishing vessels carrying many people who are not involved in fishing.
July 8, 2011