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YACHT ATTACKS

YACHT ATTACKS

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The increasing numbers of yacht robberies in Bequia are becoming a cause for concern among tourism officials and residents alike.{{more}}

This, after word coming from that Grenadine Island is that in only the first week since the opening of the tourist season, there have been five reported incidents of yachts being tampered with.

According to Herman Belmar, Deputy Director of Grenadines Affairs, while the problem has been plaguing the island for some time, this year has “opened with a bang for the rogues and the thieves out there.”

“The number of incidents is growing and they are growing to the point where it is becoming alarming,” Belmar told SEARCHLIGHT.

He said that of the five reported incidents so far this year, two were foiled. However in at least two of the incidents, bandits took off with cash.

In one instance, Belmar said a family was left without any money, as he pointed out the severity of the problem.

The issue has become the focal point for many on that island, as yachting tourism is a major income earner Belmar explained.

“It was felt by members of the general public that something must be done to curb the problem or else tourism is going to suffer here in the Grenadines, and if the Grenadines tourism collapses, then people here will bite the dust and we cannot allow this to continue,” he said.

Already some charter companies were beginning to send out advisories to yachtsmen to avoid certain areas around St Vincent, but Belmar contended that this could not continue.

“Because this is not what we desire; tourism is the bread and butter of most Vincentians as agriculture is faltering,” Belmar told SEARCHLIGHT.

A similar problem occurred in the Tobago Cays, where some arrests were made. However, Belmar said that there have been no arrests for robberies that occurred in Bequia.

And while the problem has been resolved in the Southern Grenadines, the same cannot not be said for Bequia.

Lucille Cozier, Chairman of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Tourism Authority, told SEARCHLIGHT that the negative impact on the economy, particularly that of the Grenadines, was worrying.

“Agriculture is to one part of the country what tourism is to another, so we really have to strike a balance,” Cozier said.

She said that it was still too early in the tourist season to say what, if any, negative impact the robberies have had on the industry.

Beng Mortstedt, owner of the Bequia Beach Hotel, told SEARCHLIGHT that fortunately his establishment had not been impacted negatively by the yacht robberies.

He agreed, however, that the issue could be detrimental to the industry.

“Bequia is a yachting island and is regarded as a relatively safe island; these robberies that have been taking place can do damage to the reputation of the island,” Mortsedt said.

“We are very concerned and tourists are getting more and more concerned,” he continued.

Kennard Davis told SEARCHLIGHT that he has been a taxi driver on Bequia for well over forty years and that yacht robberies have been occurring for years.

But Davis contends that the issue has been getting worse year after year.

He explained that he has been in the forefront in offering recommendations to try to curb the problem.

According to Davis, there were plans to have some presence of the Coast Guard in Bequia and that a team interviewed taxi drivers in the past, but nothing has come out from either of the two measures.

He was adamant that there is need for more patrols, particularly at night.

“Because if we lose tourism here, it will be a problem for many,” Davis said, adding that if tourists do not come to Bequia, then a lot of people there will not be able to make a dollar.

Meanwhile, Cozier said that the issue is being looked at very seriously by the Ministry of Tourism.

According to Cozier, Minister of Tourism Saboto Caesar is expected to meet with all stakeholders today in Bequia.

“People have ideas, but we need to get what those are and see how to implement them immediately,” Cozier explained.

She made an appeal to persons who may know perpetrators of these crimes not to buy goods they may be offering.

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