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Yacht Crimes in St. Vincent & the Grenadines

By Sue Richards last modified Jan 11, 2010 02:06 PM

Published: 2010-01-11 14:06:24
Topics: Piracy Reports 2009
Countries: St Vincent & the Grenadines

Report by the Caribbean Safety and Security Net
Also see comment by Chris Doyle at bottom

17 December 2009 - “Yacht crimes crippling SVG Tourism” from the Vincentian (reprint)

“The yacht charter industry in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is reeling under pressure from wanton burglary, break-ins and stealing from yachts, moored at the various harbours in the state.

The yacht charter companies are concerned that, despite repeated reports of the incidence of theft, the perpetrators are hardly ever apprehended, much less taken to court. The companies also cite as both ironic and disturbing that many of the crimes are perpetuated in the Ratho Mill area, which is in close proximity to the Calliaqua Police Station and the Coast Guard Base.

Incidents of crime
Around 8 October, Planned Outage, a Beneteau 50 yacht, was anchored off Princess Margaret Beach in Bequia. The guests went ashore for dinner, only to return to their yacht to find it had been broken into. Stolen were a computer, camera, cell phone and about US$1,500 in cash. A police report was made in Bequia but to date, the victims of the crime have heard nothing.

Since that incident, there have been twelve other reported cases of burglary or attempted armed robbery of yachts up to 6 December. The attempted armed robbery on 6 December failed; the perpetrator was apprehended by the captain and guests when he made his attempt on their yacht moored at Salt Whistle Bay, Mayreau.

Making known the situation
The situation in SVG has evoked so much concern that one yacht charter in St. Lucia is advising yachts to bypass SVG.

Ironically, one writer, Warren East, who had written glowingly about SVG in the magazine "Yacht Essentials", stating that St. Vincent and the Grenadines was “having a bad rap”, had to swallow a bitter pill when his yacht was broken into a few days after the Constitution referendum here. He lost, among other things, a computer on which he had "saved" a book he was working on over three years.

John West of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Recreational Marine Association (SVGRMA) sent an e-mail dated 7 December 2009 to Tourism Minister Glen Beache. In it, he tabulated a summary of incidents of crime against yachts. The letter also included: “The Moorings St. Lucia are instructing all of their yachts to bypass St. Vincent until further notice, as many other yacht charter operators north of us already do. It is quite evident that yacht crime is rampant and is doing untold harm to what is without doubt the single most important part of our tourism product.”

West told THE VINCENTIAN in a telephone conversation on Wednesday, that he received a telephone call from the Minister in response to the e-mail, during which the Minister said he would take up the matter with the relevant authorities.

He said the Minister later informed him that he had met with security officials, including the Coast Guard, to discuss the vexing issue, and while there was limited resources, plans were being put in place to upgrade surveillance.

West said that he also received information from Faylene Findlay-Scrubb of the Tourism Ministry that the Ministry of National Security had met with senior public servants and officers of the National Parks to map out a preventative surveillance and interdiction action plan. While a number of suggestions made at the meeting were matters of national security and therefore not for public release, he was informed that consideration was being given to using two customs vessels to provide patrol service.

Meanwhile, two reports received by the Caribbean Safety and Security Net in November and December made mention of the increase in incidents, citing specifically Young Island Cut, Bequia and Mayreau. It is likely that most of these incidents happened to charter boats which is why few of these have been reported here. One report also indicted that the water taxis have lost outboards as well as visiting yachts.

Message Received 11 January 2010 from Chris Doyle (Author of Sailors Guides to the Caribbean)

The upsurge in thefts this year in Bequia is distressing. It is not limited to yachts, many locals have had their houses broken into.

However, while any boat (or house) getting broken into is unacceptable, the situation is not quite as desperate as it sounds by some reports. I understand Bequia had a record number of yachting visitors over Christmas and the New Year (many hundreds).

Given that there is any risk it makes absolutely no sense to leave large sums of cash or valuables lying around the boat when you go ashore. Most of us who cruise the Caribbean would not think of it, even though we may never have had a problem. I suggest using credit cards for the most part and keeping them on your person, getting small amounts of cash when you need it from an ATM. The loss of a personal computer would be both a pain in the neck and a bad financial loss. However I try to avoid such an eventuality from being a complete catastrophe by backing important files and keeping them on my person. My key ring consists of a 16 gigabyte USB drive.

I do not yet have information on the west coast of St. Vincent, but from the report given on Noonsite, reasonable caution is advisable, and continue to avoid overnighting in Chateaubelair.