Discover Montserrat has learned that the police vessel Heliconia Star is to be out of commission for at least four weeks to undergo major repairs.
Despite Royal Montserrat Police Service officials stating that the boat was operational, sources have confirmed that the vessel, which cost upwards of three million pounds to build and commission, must be taken out of the water to repair damage sustained in September. The high-tech boat has been anchored in the Little Bay harbour since then.
His Excellency the Governor Andy Pearce, who has responsibility for national security, appeared not to have been fully briefed about the extent of the damage when he told the media last week that there were issues with the vessel. At that time, he said the issue was being looked at by engineers but the boat was still capable of being used in case of emergency.
Sources have said the vessel will need to be towed and put on dry dock for up to a month to fix the damage caused. It is believed the damage was incurred by an officer in the police marine unit who had not been certified and approved by the trainers to do so. The matter is under investigation and the marine unit officers have been put to work in other police divisions in the interim.
The Heliconia Star was commissioned in June of this year, after several years of work to purchase the vessel through the Governor’s Office. The police service had been crying for sometime that they were unable to adequately secure the waters around Montserrat due to their previous boat being beyond repair.
Along with marine security, the Heliconia Star is expected to support the work of other government ministries as it relates to mapping the coastline and enforcing the Blue Halo and restricted fishing zones.
The December to April seas can usually be quite challenging for the ferry and other boaters. Having a vessel capable of handling search and rescue is also an essential requirement of the island to meet its obligations to operate an airport based on the Chicago Convention on aviation.