Police patrol boats idled for years

Repair bill: $590,000

Three police marine unit patrol boats were effectively taken out of service for more than two and a half years and another craft was decommissioned after the government spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to repair it, records obtained by the Cayman Compass have revealed. 

The details of the marine unit patrol craft idle time and repair costs, which approached $600,000 between January 2011 and February 2014, were released to the Compass last week about 19 months after the newspaper filed a formal open records request for the information. 

The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service initially said the records sought had been corrupted in numerous hard drive crashes at the Citrus Grove building where they were stored. The government was forced to restore more than 1 terabyte of data from the drives in order to recover the information. 

The records request sought to determine which Joint Marine Unit patrol craft had been damaged between Jan. 1, 2011 and the date of the Freedom of Information request, Feb. 19, 2014, what was paid to repair those damages and how long the boats were out of service while repairs were made. 

The RCIPS response indicated the vessels Tornado, Cayman Defender, Cayman Guardian and Cayman Protector all required repairs for which they were sidelined at various times during the period. 

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Protector, once the crown jewel of the RCIPS patrol fleet, was taken out of service in 2011 and had about $90,000 worth of repairs made to it. However, a decision was then taken in 2012 to decommission the vessel, after it was determined more extensive repairs would be needed on the aging craft. 

“It was a situation where [the government] may have to spend more on it than the remaining life-span of the vessel is worth,” Marine Unit Inspector Ian Yearwood said. 

Protector was never replaced in the marine unit fleet, which expanded significantly between 2008-2009. 

Tornado was out of service for a year between 2013 and 2014, records show. More than $110,000 was spent during the period on repairs. Cayman Defender was out between Feb. 11, 2012 and August 2013, a period of about 18 months. Its repairs during the period also cost about $110,000. 

Cayman Guardian was out for one month in 2011 and cost about $138,000 to fix. 

Additional repairs were made to two other patrol craft, Niven D and Typhoon, during the same period. That work cost more than $140,000, but neither boat had to be taken out of service, police said. Repairs totaling less than $3,000 were made to several Wave Runners used by the marine unit. 

Missing data 

The difficulties regarding the response to the Compass Freedom of Information request became a news story on its own last year. 

RCIPS representatives, responding to the open records request several months late, revealed the hard drive crashes had occurred when information related to the request about Marine Unit patrol boats could not be located. 

The original request for information sought: “All of the watercraft used as part of the Joint Marine Unit’s operations by name of the boat. How many times each of those watercraft have a) broken down, have been damaged or were otherwise found to be deficient and have required repairs or replacement; b) the period of time they were out of service; c) the cost of making the repairs; d) when they were returned to service; e) if they were not returned to service, what happened to the watercraft.” 

The eventual response by the police did not provide information regarding how many times the various watercraft had broken down during the relevant period. 

Some of the repair cost information has been provided as part of the request last year, but police said data related to the time the vessels were out of service was on the government hard drives that had crashed several times. The last recorded hard drive crash at the Citrus Grove building occurred in March 2014. 

Since November 2014, the Information Commissioner’s Office has been attempting to follow up with the RCIPS to retrieve the relevant files. The RCIPS initially blamed the government Computer Services Department over the issue and then stopped responding to the commissioner’s office requests altogether. 

Over a period of months, the Computer Services Department worked to restore the corrupted data, and by August 2014 reported that all but 10.6 megabytes had been retrieved. The Compass then renewed its open records request for the Marine Unit information. The open records request for the Marine Unit information was partially answered on Thursday of last week. 

A number of RCIPS marine unit craft have spent significant time in the repair dock over the past several years. - Photo: Brent Fuller

A number of RCIPS marine unit craft have spent significant time in the repair dock over the past several years. – Photo: Brent Fuller
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  1. One important thing the public will have to realize, is that it is useless sewing old cloth to new linen.
    In time it will eventually tear away. After reading this report of Marine patrol boats being idle for a few years, it seems like this is what was being done; saying this to say, that if you have an old boat or old car for that matter, and you keep replacing parts every day, eventually one day she will chug along with you until she just give up, and you just have to buy a new one.
    So to keep sparing money/change and patching up these old boats is just a waste of both time and money.
    According to Inspector Ian Yearwood ( whom I have every confidence in) it was useless repairing these old boats beyond their life span. That is called sewing old cloth to new linen.
    After reading the report it seems that a break down in communication became evident between the CSD and this caused request from the ICO not to be forthcoming.
    Generally reflecting on a Marine Unit of any country, I believe no change should be spared when giving them the best, because remember these boats or vessels, are not cars, they are subjected to imminent danger ever time they take to the sea. If a police car breaks down on the road, quickly a tow truck is sent and it is taken care of; on the other hand let us just imagine for one moment this happening to a Marine crew/police vessel, miles away from the island. With what is going on in our seas these days; they would be "Sitting Ducks" I continue to support giving the best cars, boats and helicopters to our police force and not to use just spare change on either of them; after all they are the ones who protect our borders and our businesses and our lives while we sleep.

  2. As a former boat owner and operator for many years, I found that when one captain ran the boat you had less troubles with the boat than when numerous captains run it. I find that these amounts of money spent on repairs is appalling to say the least. I can only say that it must be too many operators, or the repair shop is not qualified, or a friend of someone.

  3. Further to my comment I would suggest that persons voice their concerns, because the report also looks like it has been worded in such a way that is making the Marine Unit and the police look bad. I believe at the end of the day these are police work boats being referred to, and not pleasure boat/craft that visit Rum Point only on weekends.
    I believe the Marine unit boats go where none others go, and in conditions few people dear to venture, out saving lives in rough seas and dire stormy weather risking their lives. Many times I would believe the boats get damaged, in trying to save the same people who constantly moan and complain and go on the blogs and speak poorly about the police. So my suggestion would be since people feel so strongly about the marine unit, they should all sign a petition closing down the unit, and see what happens in a week. Or work with the system and stop giving the Marine unit the end of the stick, when we know they have been doing an excellent job, and they are not being complimented for. These hopeful support is also being extended to half and half police, ex police and the list…….go on.

  4. Whilst the FOI process is an important way for the voting public to understand and follow the spending habits of government one has to wonder how much money was spent simply to comply with this FOI request and what resourcess were diverted from other tasks ?

  5. @ David I agree with your analysis of the issue, operating a boat require knowledge experience and common sense in the responsibility of the operation, but this is what happens when you have no one in charge of the boats or the money, the bottom line is stupidity. Who would put a landscaper to run a bank.