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Random searches at wharf net drugs, ammunition

Random searches at wharf net drugs, ammunition


The random searches of passengers at the Grenadines wharf in Kingstown have in the last nine and a half months netted approximately 77 pounds of marijuana, 26 grams of cocaine and three rounds of ammunition.

These searches, which are part of the International Ships and Port Facility Security (ISPS){{more}} codes, designed to enhance the security features of port facilities, have resulted in 36 persons being charged; 22 convictions; eight matters still before the court; four pending matters and one case still being investigated.

And according to a Ministry of National Security official, if these searches are not carried out, the visits of cruise ships to this country and international trade could be threatened, because of the location of the Grenadines wharf between the Cruise Ship and Ferry Terminal and the Kingstown Port.

Yesterday, in an interview with SEARCHLIGHT, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security Godfred Pompey said that while persons are calling for the random searches to stop, ceasing this practice can have serious consequences, as the United States (US) Coastguard usually conducts audits on port facilities, one of which will be carried out here between February 15 and 18 this year.

The ISPS Code is a set of measures to enhance the security of ships and port facilities. It was developed in response of the perceived threats to ships and port facilities after the September 11, 2001 (9/11) attacks in the US. The ISPS Code is part of the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) and compliance is mandatory for the 148 Contracting Parties to SOLAS.

“This ISPS code, which was established in 2004, is similar to the ICAO regulations governing airports. Persons travelling to and from the Grenadines must be screened according to the codes, because at each port of entry, you must have a security plan and the Grenadines is in a unique position in the middle of the cruise terminal and the cargo terminal so there must be a certain level of demarcation,” explained Pompey.

He stressed that the Grenadines wharf, the Kingstown port and the cruise ship berth are all in very close proximity so that in itself is a security risk.

“…so because of that, travellers using the Grenadines pier must be screened. There are random checks according to the security plan and this is what the police have been doing,” said Pompey, who added that these security plans must be approved by the designated authority, which is in this case the St Vincent and the Grenadines Coastguard, under the charge of Commander Brenton Cain.

Pompey said that the random searches and other security measures have been approved by the US Coastguard as a means of mitigating the security issues because of the cruise ship berth and cargo port locations here.

“If there is a problem then the cruise ships will not come and it will affect international trade; they will impose sanctions on us,” Pompey declared, noting that the other ports, like the ones at the Eastern Caribbean Group of Companies (ECGC) in Campden Park and the Campden Park port facility, all have security plans.

“All the ports that deal with international ships have security plans that must be approved by the designated authority. The US Coastguard will come from time to time and conduct audits, so it is in keeping with the international regulation and we must comply,” stressed Pompey, who noted that random checks are also carried out on persons coming to the mainland from the Grenadines.

Between March 2, 2015 and January 19, 2016, these random searches on persons going to the Grenadine islands have netted approximately 77 pounds of marijuana, 26 grams of cocaine and three rounds of ammunition.

On August 27, 2015, Grenadian Alwin Harry, a 35-year-old labourer, was caught at the Grenadines wharf with 5,655 grams (a little over 12 lbs) of marijuana. He was fined EC$7,000 when he appeared in court. This was the biggest haul of cannabis made between March 2, 2015 and January 19, 2016 at the Grenadines wharf.

On July 9, 2015, Quinten Ballantyne of Sandy Bay, a 36-year-old steel bender, was nabbed with 3,966 grams (over 8 lbs) of cannabis and 26 grams of cocaine. He was fined EC$8,500 when he appeared in court. He is the only person to have been caught with cocaine during the period under review.

On the same day, July 9, 2015, Delano Ledger of Glen, a 28-year-old labourer, was found with two rounds of ammunition. He was fined EC$200 when he appeared in court.

The only other person to have been accused with ammunition possession was Union Island resident Godwin Providence, a 19-year-old labourer. It is alleged that Providence had one round of 9 millimetre ammunition and I gram of cannabis on September 15, 2015 at the Kingstown wharf. His matter is pending before the courts. (LC)