After the recent incidents of drug smuggling in Venezuela, the smugglers had been attaching packages of drugs to the hulls of unsuspecting vessels. 

Because of this reason Venezuelan local authorities have established a programme of mandatory underwater hull inspections for vessels in Venezuelan ports. 

In a number of cases, Standard Club says that after the completion of the inspection, the divers reported items missing from the hull, such as:

  • Nuts
  • Bolts
  • Pin locks

"The fact that in most cases the affected areas doesn’t seems to have rust (after checking the CCCT videos recorded), lead us to believe that the divers could be a possible cause for the parts to be missing," Standard Club mentions.

The Club continued by saying that the divers after completing their diving operations request that the Master pay in cash for them to replace all of the missing parts prior to the vessels departure.

If a Master has refused to pay, divers have been known to request that the authorities arrest the vessel on the basis that the underwater areas surveyed were readied for the placement of foreign objects.

It is suspected that in many cases the divers themselves are the cause of the missing parts. This practice has been reported frequently in Puerto Ordaz and Puerto la Cruz, Standard Club reports.

In its report the Club notices that they might be doing this practice to extort the vessels and receive extra cash in foreign currency for carrying out the parts replacement.

Standard Club provides recommendations to help operators prevent similar incidents in the future:

1. If no object were found, the Master may simply refuse to pay the divers for the reinstalling of the parts as the ship-owner have the right to repair the ship anywhere else. This is the most effective way to discourage the divers to continue with this practice but requires all vessels to comply with the recommendation.

2. Conduct a verification, with the presence of the National Guard if possible, upon each diver in order to ensure that they do not carry any tool they could use to remove the parts and blackmail the Master later. For the inspection purposes, divers only requires the cameras and not any tools.

3. Consider to appoint private divers which would ensure the quality of the service and avoid such incidents.

4. Inform the P&I correspondent immediately in order to ensure that proper actions are taken timely and delays or arrest upon the vessels are avoided.

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