Notes From The Margin

March 20, 2008

One Fatality as Massive Waves Pound Barbados

 

As Barbados’ coasts received a pounding from huge waves generated by an atlantic storm, an elderly gentleman got into difficulty swimming and drowned today.

Noel Austin, who accompanied the elderly man to the beach this morning admitted there were red flags on the beach when they arrived, indicating danger and that swimming was therefore not advised. He said they still ventured into the water, but he emerged after realising the waters were too rough. Unfortunately, Austin said, his friend dismissed his advice to do the same.

The best efforts of the Coast Guard and a lifeguard on duty to save the St. Michael man were in vain.

 The heavy seas also affected operations at the Barbados Port where three cruise ships were forced to abort attempts to berth at the deep water harbour for safety reasons. After discussions between the captains and the Harbourmaster it was decided that conditions were too rough to allow for the tendering of passengers to the shore.  The port was offloading one small cargo ship that had a perishable cargo, but indicated that it’ s operations as far as servicing ships would be curtailed for the day. (The port remains open for deliveries of cargo)

There are some reports of property damage in neigbouring St. Lucia however we are short on details.

It is anticipated that the swell will become more intense over Friday but that sea conditions should be back to normal by Saturday.

We will continue to follow this story as details come to hand.

Marginal.

March 19, 2008

Eastern Caribbean Braces For Dangerously Large Waves

Don't be like these guys, exercise some caution around big waves....

A deep low pressure centre that spawned tornadoes and thunderstorms across the US earlier this week is set to generate massive sea swells in the Caribbean over the next two or three days.

The Barbados and Saint Lucia Meteorological Offices yesterday issued weather forecasts indicating that “significant sea wave height” were expected over the Eastern Caribbean, starting today and continuing into tomorrow.

The Barbados Meteorological Office indicated that swells around four to five metres, or 12 to 16 feet, were expected over the coastal waters surrounding Barbados from late Wednesday/early Thursday.

Islands further north are projecting EVEN LARGER waves!

So concerned are officials that in Barbados and St. Lucia the National Disaster Management agencies (Department of Emergency Management in Barbados and National Emergency Management Organisation in St. Lucia) have quietly started to put contingency plans in place in the event that they need to take action.
In Puerto Rico ships are being temporarily relocated, and people are being cautioned….
U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Jim Tunstall in San Juan:-

“This is not a storm that surfers and others that typically enjoy relatively heavy surf need to go out in”

 

We will keep abreast of this story as it develops…..

 

Marginal

March 3, 2008

Why We DON’T Want Obama To Win (Or Clinton For That Matter)

This is one of the more difficult posts to write, difficult because we don’t want to be misunderstood, and difficult because it’s a difficult choice to make. As we write this the Primary season of the US presidential election is rolling forward. The Republican front runner John McCain appears to have his hand on the nomination (barring something quite unexpected happening) In the Democrats camp there is a heated battle for the nomination going on between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

In the Caribbean the popular sentiment is understandably for Obama, he’s personable, has an agenda for change in Washington and of course, he’s black. For the first time ever it would seem that an African American has a real chance of ending up in the White House. For a region that is mostly African in descent it’s heady stuff.

However….

As cool as it is that the United States has reached the stage of maturity that they could seriously consider a black man for the post of Commander in Chief, we on the Margin have come to the conclusion that Mr. Obama’s race is (or should be) for us in the Caribbean irrelevant.

Why have we reached this conclusion?

We have to recall the Clinton presidency (That’s Bill if you are confused) Bill Clinton was one of the most “human” US Presidents in living memory. Former President Clinton was enormously popular in the Caribbean, mostly on his personal charisma. However when you look at the effects the Clinton presidency had on the Caribbean, Bill Clinton did more damage to us than any hurricane that has struck the island chain. Why do we say this?

1. Dole/Chiquita Bananas and the WTO.  This action destroyed the livelihoods of hundreds of Caribbean farmers basically to repay a campaign contributor.

2. The Ship Rider Controversy. Remember the pressure that was brought to bear on Barbados when it resisted?

3. The OECD “Harmful Taxation” initiative.  Despite the BLP’s efforts to say that it fell apart because of Owen Arthur, we really know that it fell apart because when Bush came to power the US was no longer interested in backing the initiative.

This isn’t meant to be a US bashing post, but the fact is the Caribbean has ALWAYS done better under a Republican in the White House than a Democrat. We can see the echoes of similar policies in Mr. Obama’s current political career. With rhetoric against NAFTA (Ironically which was enacted by Clinton) and action in sponsoring the “Tax Haven Abuse Act”.

If we lived in the US we would probably vote for Mr. Obama, but the fact is that we don’t live in the US. Rather than get caught up in the euphoria that surrounds his campaign we are forced to apply the same logic that we do to our local politicians “Judge them not by what they say, but by what they do” and when judged on that scale (from a Caribbean perspective anyway) Mr. Obama is found to be less than an ideal candidate.

Marginal

February 25, 2008

Do We Need A Caribbean FBI?

Faced with rising crime rates, Caribbean governments have struggled to keep pace. However at a time of challenging economic conditions and soaring levels of indebtedness, many Caribbean police forces are overwhelmed, underpaid, and under-equipped. This is particularly the case in the smaller economies of the OECS (you will note that I did not say “smaller islands”) The Caribbean with it’s inadquately equipped security forces, and many islands with inlets and coves make the chain attractive as a route for drug traffickers to move narcotics to the metropolitan markets.

The wealthier economies in the region have attempted to strengthen their security apparatus however, they are often faced with criminals who have more sophisticated equipment than they do.  The problem is compounded by the lack of financial assistance for security ( a mindset that is slowly changing).

It is against this background that Trinidad Prime Minister Patrick Manning recently proposed the development of a Pan Caribbean law enforcement agency.

Patrick Manning said a well-trained, equipped regional force with the power to legally operate in any CARICOM country would be part of the answer to combating the crime situation – one which he insists is being driven by the illegal drug trade.

“Many of us in the Caribbean today are challenged by the unacceptable levels of criminal activity in our country, most of which are now spurred by the global traffic in illegal drugs. The trade in illegal arms and gang warfare lead to an unacceptable level of homicide in our main urban centres,” he said, while delivering the keynote address at the recent University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona Campus Commemoration Dinner in Jamaica….

…..Mr Manning said his country had sought to stem the flow of illegal drugs and arms into the country through initiatives which he believes will eventually rid the country of the drug trade, such as round the clock surveillance of the twin island republic’s largely unprotected coastline. But he also noted that the pattern in the past demonstrated that when the operations of drug lords are interrupted in one country they move to another.

“(That) pattern emphasises the need for multilateral efforts among ourselves and with the wider world. Failure to effectively deal with the issue of crime could stymie the economic and social development of the Caribbean,” he said.

Mr Manning further urged CARICOM heads to spearhead the process of greater cooperation in the sharing of intelligence among police forces to head off migratory drug smugglers.

In theory this sounds like a great idea, and we on the margin support it generally. However would such a “federal” force be allowed to operate? To often in the Caribbean there are rumours (and we  aren’t prepared to say they are only rumours) of “certain people” in certain countries being untouchable, would a CFBI be allowed to go after them?If they were it would open an interesting can of worms.

Would the criminals arrested by this federal force be prosecuted in local or regional courts? For example we have many cases of witnesses in Trinidad being murdered before they can testify, we also have rumours of corrupt judiciaries in some countries, would people arrested by the “Federales” have a likely chance of getting convicted in a local court?

When you look at the implications of a Caribbean Law Enforcement agency, it’s not as simple as it might appear at first blush. For it to be really effective it would have to be part of a Pan Caribbean judicial system.

Marginal

February 1, 2008

Bird Island Again! – Grenada in Maritime Boundary Dispute With Venezuela.

Venezuela’s claim to Bird Island seems about to become an election issue in Grenada with opposition parties protesting the length of time it is taking to settle the matter.

Now Dr. Alexis’ assertion is usually true, however the arbitrator for these issue is usually the UN Law Of The Sea Treaty, however Venezuela is not a signatory to that treaty. (unsurprisingly as Bird Island does not meet the criteria under that treaty for it’s massive claim of sea space). It is unlikely that Venezuela will  recant it’s claim, and this does appear to be a somewhat intractable problem.
Of course, Grenada like almost everyone else in the Caribbean signed up to the Petro Caribe agreement. It sounds like they are about to find out exacly how the strings are attached.
We will continue to follow this story.
Marginal
Further reading:

Details on Aves Island – How Venezuela Controls the Caribbean Sea

Venezuela and Bird Island

December 11, 2007

BNOC GM Points Out The Obvious – Petro Caribe Is A Debt Trap!

We are applauding a statement by the current General Manager of the Barbados National Petroleum Company on the “gift with strings” that is Petro Caribe.

 Ron Hewitt, Barbados National Oil Company General Manager said on Monday, that Chavez’s Petrocaribe is not helping Caribbean countries, but making their finances worst. ” Petrocaribe is not helping at all to coup with the high oil prices, Caribbean countries are just running a large debt with Venezuela. “

 

Petrocaribe is just a scheme to create an oil dependency from Venezuela, added Hewitt at the two-day Caribbean Energy conference at the Hilton Trinidad in Port Spain.

 

“It doesn’t’t represent what we are looking for in Barbados. You have to pay part of the cost now and get a credit. That credit then goes onto your national debt. It’s not an asset….” Hewitt said.

 It is scary that the other Caribbean countries could not see this from the outset.  What is remarkable is that Barbados has been pilloried in all sorts of regional fora for not signing on. The truth of the matter is that Petro Caribe does NOT help the Caribbean, it is NOT in the Caribbean’s best interest. It simply gives Venezuela power over a key sector of our economies and increases our debt. Further the condition of accessing the “concessions” mean that Venezuela will have power over the supply chain so that it will be difficult for those in the Net to escape it.

Marginal

November 30, 2007

Regional Update on Earthquake Aftermath

We came across this article on reliefweb, that gives a good summary of the damage.

On Thursday, 29 November at 15:00 hrs (13:00 hrs local Caribbean time) an earthquake of magnitude 7.4 (National Earthquake Information Center http://earthquake.usgs.gov/regional/neic/) occurred near the island of Martinique – Windward Islands in the Caribbean. The epicentre was located at 14.921°N, 61.264°W. (21 km east of Martinique) at a depth of 145.4 km (90.4 miles). Tremors of varying time lengths and magnitude were felt in other Caribbean islands – Dominica, St. Lucia, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. Mobile phone services have been interrupted in many cases, and the tremor was felt hundreds of miles away in Guyana, on continental South America. However, as the depth of the event is considerable, the impact on the surface has been moderate.

In Martinique there have been reports of rocks fallen on roads and panic in supermarkets as products fell from shelves. The Prefecture scheduled a meeting to revise and evaluate the damages.

In St. Lucia there was some damage to the water lines, though no major damages reported. Some damages in the water lines.

There was temporary disruption of cell phone service in Dominica, but there have been no reports of injury or damage to buildings.

One injury was reported in Barbados when a person stumbled down the stairs during evacuation of a building. One house destroyed in Ellerton, St. George and some land-slides reported.

 This could have been much worse.

Marginal

November 29, 2007

Earthquake Update: Reports of one fatality in Guadeloupe.

Filed under: Dominica,Earthquake,guadeloupe,Martinique,Uncategorized — notesfromthemargin @ 9:02 pm

Reports are coming in of a 3 year old girl being killed in Guadeloupe due to a falling wall. Also there are reports of widespread property damage.

A strong earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale has killed a three-year-old girl, injured numerous people and caused widespread damage in Guadeloupe.

The fire and rescue service says the girl was crushed by a collapsed wall in Trois-Rivieres on the island Basse-Terre and died on her way to hospital, while her seven-year-old sister was in critical condition.

There were also numerous injuries and widespread property damage on Terre-de-Bas, one of the Saints islands, that are located just south of Basse-Terre, the French overseas department’s main island.

The quake struck at 11:50 GMT with the seismological institutes in Guadeloupe and continental France putting its epicentre south of the Saints islands towards neighbouring Dominica, numerous aftershocks were recorded.

Most of Terre-de-Basse’s 1,300 inhabitants had gathered on the field of the island’s only stadium.

“People whose homes are intact don’t want to go back to them and we are going to have to set up a tent village,” a fire and rescue service officer said.

Many homes and public buildings suffered damage, with the church partially collapsing.

We will continue to update as news comes in

 

Magnitude 7.3 Earthquake Hits the Caribbean

We all bolted for the door this afternoon as we felt and saw the ground shake beneath our feet. Outside other persons were rushing from buildings and car alarms were going off. By the time we realised what was going on it was beginning to subside. Everyone is asking what’s going on and no one appears to know. Calls on cell phones are met with “Network Busy”, calls on landlines are met with busy tones. No one is hurt but everyone is calling their loved ones to see that they are okay. People are sounding strained on the phone not because they are scared for themselves but because they fear for those dear to them. “My husband is on a construction site”, “My parents are on a plane coming in, will the airport be okay?” “I can’t get through to my children’s school I wonder if they are okay?”  a jumbled montage of thoughts and of concern.

It now appears that there has been a major earthquake just north of Martinique magnitude 7.3 (some sites are reporting 7.4)  it was strong enough to knock a house down in St. George, reports from friends in St. Lucia, Grenada and Trinidad have all reported feeling it and have all reported that they are fine. (thank goodness)

No word yet from Martinique or Dominica. As we get word we’ll post.

It’s a time to hug your family and count your blessings, it could have been much much worse.

Marginal

September 11, 2007

Super Ferry!

Saw this interesting article on STV this week on National Geographic with regard to the construction of the “Hawaii Super Ferry”, it turns out that the new ferry is the first high speed ferry service to operate in the Hawaiian Islands.

Hawaii Superferry plans to use Austal fast ferry technology to establish Hawaii’s first high-speed vehicle-passenger service. Each catamaran can carry 866 passengers and up to 282 cars (or a combination of 28 twelve metre trucks and 65 cars) and provide services connecting Honolulu to Maui and Kauai in three hours and from Honolulu to the Big Island in approximately four hours. The second ferry will begin service in early 2009. With the entry into service of the second ferry, two round trips per day between Maui and Oahu and one round trip per day between Kauai and Oahu and the Island of Hawaii and Oahu will be offered.

With a draft of 3.6 metres (11’8”) and a beam of 24 metres (78’), the ferry will commute between the Hawaiian Islands at speeds up to 40 knots. The vessel is four decks high, including two decks for the car and truck loading, one deck for passengers and the bridge deck reserved for the pilot and his crew. The 2nd deck or mezzanine deck is 2/3 hoistable in order to facilitate parking for lighter cars and leave maximum parking space for the larger trucks.

The Upper Deck or passenger deck includes many premiere amenities for 866 passengers of all ages besides comfortable seating. This deck includes a bar and lounge on each end, food counter, gift shop, video game room, children’s play area, restrooms, crew mess, purser’s office, and first aid room.

At 40 knots the ferry would be able to make the 100 mile Barbados to St. Vincent Run in just under two and a half hours. When you consider the total time of travel with LIAT (not counting delays) the ferry begins to look attractive. Also the shipping of cargo between the islands would also be revolutionised. Currently several of the islands fly produce to Barbados for onward shipment to the UK in the belly cargo of the transatlantic wide bodies. A major constraint on those industries is the carrying capacity of a Dash 8, which is currently the only effective way of moving between the islands. A high speed ferry could open new opportunities for these segments of the OECS economies.

 

The only question we are left to ask is how much longer will we have to wait for this service?

 

Marginal

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