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Jamaican vessel attacked by Haitian pirates twice last year, court hears

A document filed in the Supreme Court by West Indies Petroleum Limited (WIPL) shareholder Courtney Wilkinson last October has stated that a company-owned vessel was attacked twice by Haitian pirates mid last year, and although the crew members were not harmed, valuable items were stolen on both occasions.

The revelation comes at a time when the embattled private company is embroiled in controversy, following the removal of two directors of the five-man board recently, and the search by State revenue protection agencies of premises belonging to another.

In the court document filed October 30 one of the dismissed directors, Wilkinson, cited behaviour contrary to the rules of the company by another director, Gerald Charles Chambers, who has been named as first defendant, which concerned himself and the other director relieved of his board responsibilities – John Levy – who has been named as second claimant in the matter. The Wilkinson and Levy are seeking a fixed date claim form in the Supreme Court.

In that specific claim made in the affidavit, Wilkinson said that Chambers, who had also served as CEO up to June of last year — before he was replaced and has now been reinstated — “pursued business prospects in Haiti purportedly on behalf of WIPL, despite objection by members of the board, for fuel to be shipped to Haiti without there being proper safeguards in place to secure payment to the company”.

Wilkinson’s affidavit stated that “In or around August 22nd, 2020, a shipment which by contract was destined for St Kitts and Barbados was diverted on the 1st defendant’s instructions to stop in Haiti for the purpose of delivering fuel on credit and at discounted prices. The matter came to the attention of myself and Director John Levy and, after discussions with the Chairman Gordon Shirley, we took the decision to intervene and recall the ship as we were of the opinion that the company’s assets were at risk and sufficient safeguards were not in place to protect them.

“The board had taken a decision that the proposal to ship fuel to Haiti was high risk and would result in loss, and subsequent analysis confirmed this. Notwithstanding, the 1st defendant with the support of the Director Tarik Felix defied the board. Two weeks after that decision, the vessel was sent back to Haiti without the knowledge or approval of all the directors and in particular, Director John Levy and I,” Wilkinson stated.

“I since discovered that the vessel drifted off the coast of Haiti for over 10 days while WIPL was waiting on payments from the purchasers of the fuel. During this period, armed pirates boarded the vessel and posed a great threat to the crew. The crew was able to protect themselves from harm by locking themselves away on board but equipment was stolen by the pirates, resulting in losses to WIPL yet to be quantified.

“After returning to Jamaica, this vessel was again deployed back to Haiti and similar to the prior trip, the crew had to wait 10 days while awaiting payment for the fuel. Again, pirates boarded the vessel and stole equipment. On this occasion, the vessel was actually in port at dock about to discharge fuel. The company incurred additional expenses as a result of the waiting period and there is also further loss arising from piracy,” Wilkinson continued.

Later reports are that the vessel was also attacked a third time in Haitian waters by pirates.

Wilkinson is also

The action, which is still before the court, could have led to a dispute that caused Wilkinson and Levy to be axed from the board, although they remain shareholders with a 20 per cent stake each.

WIPL is a bunker services company that supplies all kinds of vessels with bunker services by barge in the Kingston Harbour, nine other ports, and by truck to other destinations.

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