Controversial Ship Allowed To Leave N.B. Port

Controversial ship allowed to leave N.B. port

CBC News
Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A vessel detained by Transport Canada because of a number of safety deficiencies onboard has been allowed to leave Saint John, N.B.

The Greek-owned Dimitra G was detained in the port city in October after five crew members left the ship claiming refugee status and saying there were poor living conditions on the vessel.

Transport Canada inspectors found a number of safety deficiencies such as watertight doors and hatches that didn't seal and unready lifeboats.

The living conditions were also at issue when Transport Canada found a freezer unit didn't work and there was no running water in the crew quarters.

The ship was inspected on Monday, all the deficiencies had been corrected and the living conditions had been improved, said Steve Bone of Transport Canada.

The Dimitra left the port on Monday night bound for Cuba.

Under the international Port State Control program, the ship can be inspected every six months by the country responsible for the territorial waters it sails through.

The international program is designed to ensure that mariners are safe at sea.

“In six months time, if she's back, she's subject to the same type of inspection,” said Bone.

Safety has been an issue for the Greek-owned Dimitra G, which was built in 1982.

In 2002, 2003 and 2005, the ship was detained in European Union ports for safety violations including some of the same violations as those found by Transport Canada inspectors.

Receiving social assistance

Transport Canada inspects approximately 25 per cent of all ships in Canadian waters each year.

Two of the Cuban crew members who jumped ship appeared before Canadian Immigration officials to provide preliminary information on Tuesday. The two other Cubans are scheduled to appear Wednesday.

A fifth crew member from Pakistan is also seeking refugee status.

The crew members who left the ship range in age from 28 to 42 and are receiving social assistance from the province. They are being housed by people in the community. Some of the Cubans may move into their own apartment this week.

It will take between six months to a year to determine if they'll receive their official status as refugees.
With files from the Canadian Press