Saturday, Feb 28th

You are here: Home


New Harbour security contract raises questions

~ Checkmate gets $2.2 million increase ~

PHILIPSBURG--The Harbour Group of Companies is expected to finalise a new agreement with Checkmate Security Services this week that will see the security company earn three times as much in 2015 as it did over the last year for services rendered at the port.

The Daily Herald understands that the Harbour subsidiary St. Maarten Ports Authority has budgeted US $3,138,300 for 2015 to spend on outside security services (Checkmate Security), up from $963,715 spent in 2014.

According to the Harbour's 2015 budget, a copy of which this newspaper has in its possession, the hourly rate charged by the security company increased in September 2013 from $6.75 to $7.07, a hike of roughly 5 per cent. Now, however, the rate is scheduled to increase by some 48.5 per cent, from $7.07 to $10.50.

This newspaper sent a list of detailed questions to both Minister of Tourism and Maritime Affairs Claret Connor and Harbour Group of Companies Chief Executive Officer Mark Mingo last week Wednesday to ascertain whether there is a security problem at the port with which this massive increase in the budget for Checkmate Security is meant to deal. Connor responded with a statement via the Government Press Secretariat, whereas Mingo promised via e-mail to respond, but never did.

Connor hosted a "scheduled meeting" with officials of St. Maarten Ports Authority on Thursday to go over several regulatory and compliance standards to ensure that all International Ship and Port Facility Security ISPS measures are in place as they regard the operations of the port facilities, his press release stated.

The ISPS Code is an amendment to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention (1974/1988) on minimum security arrangements for ships, ports and government agencies that came into force in 2004. It prescribes responsibilities of governments, shipping companies, shipboard personnel and port/facility personnel to detect security threats and take preventative measures against security incidents affecting ships or port facilities used in international trade.

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) states, "The International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code) is a comprehensive set of measures to enhance the security of ships and port facilities, developed in response to the perceived threats to ships and port facilities in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in the United States."

"It should be noted that the Harbour Facilities has completed its ISPS certification, which is valid until 2018," Connor assured this newspaper. "Additionally, the Port Facility Security Assessment report has been completed and will be forwarded to the Department of Civil Aviation and Maritime Affairs."

This newspaper understands this second audit is being carried out by a private contractor. It is this audit that brought up some areas of concern that need to be addressed. Several issues that stood out were the fencing around the property and the security camera system, neither of which falls under the purview of the Checkmate Security contract, this newspaper was told.

While Connor did not confirm these issues in his statement, he said he had "discussed all mentioned concerns and agreed to have regular meetings to discuss and subsequently eliminate all concerns going forward. The minister is of the opinion and concurs with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) that the ISPS Code is important in enabling government to offset changes in threat with changes in vulnerability through determination of appropriate security levels and corresponding security measures."

This newspaper also was reliably informed that there were no issues with the number of security personnel at the Harbour. It was in fact deemed sufficient. Some 10 security officers were added recently, particularly to add more security to the cargo area.

How then to explain this massive increase in the Harbour budget for Checkmate Security, this newspaper asked the minister. Does the Harbour think there is a need for an even bigger increase of personnel?

However, Connor said he was not aware of any statement regarding the number of security personnel in the ISPS audit.

"Government is about continuity," he stated in his release. "As such, the minister re-iterated the instructions and position of the previous administration to the Harbour Holding Company, to make sure that all measures be taken to assist the current security company at the port to be stable, which would mean the availability to provide more jobs in the future. The minister supports the recruitment of more local workers at the government-owned companies."

Connor suggested in Parliament recently that the increase in the Checkmate Security budget came from the intention to replace non-national employees with locals. He also said the increased contract amount was to allow for training of the guards.

This newspaper asked the minister whether there is a salary double standard approved by government and the Harbour for nationals on the one hand and non-nationals on the other. (This newspaper understands that none of the foreign workers have received a salary increase recently.)

This newspaper also asked the minister whether, in his opinion, it is common practice for the Harbour to pay for training personnel of a third-party contractor it hires to perform a service of their expertise and whether there was any specific reason the guards need such extensive additional training. Did the latest ISPS audit indicate that?

Connor's only reply to these questions was that "security personnel will be trained to the levels deemed appropriate to maintain a high level of readiness."

Meanwhile, efforts to reach Checkmate Security General Manager Chet Euton for comment proved futile.

Checkmate Security was sold last year by then owner Michael Kuiperi. Euton told this newspaper at the time that the new owners of the company wished to remain in the background.

According to the St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce registry, O'Neal Edward Arrindell Junior is the company's director. It is unclear whether Arrindell, who was Frans Richardson's campaign manager during the last parliamentary elections, is also the owner or a representative of the owner(s).

Man caught red-handed in burglary of Tattoo Parlour

PHILIPSBURG--Police arrested a 23-year-old man, who jumped from a building, after he and another person were caught red-handed breaking into Tattoo Parlor on Back Street in the wee hours of Saturday morning. The second suspected accomplice escaped.

Police were directed to the scene of the robbery around 2:55am. Police spokesperson Ricardo Henson said Sunday that when police arrived on the scene they heard persons running through that section of the building, which is under construction. When the suspects noticed that police were on the scene, one jumped from the third floor of the building to the ground. The suspect stood up and took off running along with the other suspect.

The two persons were chased on foot through the streets. At one point, police fired a warning shot. The suspect who jumped from the building surrendered, while the other continued fleeing.

The man who surrendered was detained on the spot and taken to the police station for further investigation. The arrested man complained of "internal pain" and was treated at the police station by paramedics, who determined that the suspect should be taken to St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) for further treatment. However, while at SMMC, the man declined medical treatment and was returned to the detention centre.

Later that day, the paramedics were called again to tend to the suspect, who was again taken to the hospital for further treatment. Henson said investigation into this incident is ongoing. The second suspect is yet to be arrested.

Man seriously hurt in scooter accident

PHILIPSBURG--A 37-year-old man has suffered serious injuries during a scooter accident in Oyster Pond around 4:55pm on Saturday.

Police spokesperson Ricardo Henson said the man possibly fractured his shoulders, left leg and spine. Police patrols and the police traffic department responded to the accident.

The investigating traffic officer said the scooter rider, for unknown reasons, seemed to have lost control of his vehicle and collided with a rock wall on the side of the road. He was treated on the scene by paramedics and transported to St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) in "serious condition" for further medical treatment. Investigations into the incident are still ongoing.

St. Martin to be compensated for hurricane, flood damage

MARIGOT--The French Ministry of Overseas Territories has approved disaster funds for St. Martin and St. Barths in the wake of Hurricane Gonzalo, and the subsequent floods of November 7 and 8, 2014, the Préfecture has confirmed.

Businesses, individuals and families in all sectors can apply for financial aid to rebuild or repair, and particularly those who were not insured.

The process of coordinating the claims has been entrusted to Service des Territoires de la Mer et du Développement Durable (STMDD). In addition, a technical committee composed of persons from the State, Collectivité and Chamber of Commerce, will be in charge of processing claims and validating the amounts requested.

More information about the funds available, according to type of disaster, can be found on the website of the Préfecture, as well as claim forms that can be downloaded.

Claims can be submitted at Service de la Cohésion Social de la Préfecture, 20 Rue Galis Bay, Marigot, tel. (0590) 29.27.21, or in St. Barths at Delegation de la Préfecture, Rue Lupin Brin, tel. (0590) 27.63.28.

They can be submitted from Monday, March 2 until April 17.

SCDF: Carnival schedule to have something for all

page1a232PHILIPSBURG--The Carnival schedule of events features "something for everyone" in what will be a very long Carnival season, says the St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF).

The official Scotiabank Carnival Schedule, already in distribution digitally via social media, will be distributed in hard copy format later this week. "If you love a good fête, this one is for you," the SCDF said.

The schedule and all Carnival activities kick off with the second Annual Causeway Jump-Up on March 14, and end with the Closing Jump-Up and Burning of King Momo on May 4. Combined with Carnival pre-events and parties, St. Maarten Carnival 2015 with its slogan "Come, Experience Life!" will span 29 days with the official opening of Carnival Village on April 16.

For Carnival lovers that crave the international concerts, seven of them are on the schedule. For folks who lean towards more of the local/cultural aspects, seven such shows are also scheduled including a new one entitled "Soca Rumble," which will be detailed in the coming days. Five jump-ups, two parades, four pageants, a family play day and a Carnival Village Cook-Up are all part of Carnival 2015.

All Carnival events will be streamed via the Internet to the world, but local online access will be blocked.

"This year SCDF is once again giving patrons the opportunity to purchase Carnival Season Passes, which are US $250 and allow entrance to every show in Carnival Village after its official opening on April 16.

"The great thing about St. Maarten Carnival is the choices it offers. If you love concerts, we have them; if you love pageants, we have them. Calypso? Done deal. Jump-Ups? We have plenty. And, of course you can tailor your Carnival experience the way you want it with several options," SCDF said.

"In other words, the season pass is US $250 yes, but Carnival lovers are also offered several 'early bird' packages for the shows, they can choose to only attend the local events which are, naturally, cheaper than the international concerts. We have afforded the possibility to pay for the pass in two instalments. So everyone has options for how they want to tailor their experience.

"Most important, however, the most proud of Carnival's all-inclusive and ever-growing status as St. Maarten's largest, longest and best attended annual event. And, this requires the continued contribution of all.

"Our growth is evident; the significance to our economy is undisputable, but we want to elevate Carnival to new levels moving forward, address our shortcomings and work towards financial stability with the cooperation of our dedicated corporate sponsors.

"Great things are ahead for St. Maarten Carnival and our hard working group of volunteers intends to give residents and visitors alike another memorable Carnival experience in 2015."

Page 6 of 1192