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Tourist boats set on fire, competitors suspected

Thursday 28 January 2016 | Published in Regional

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NGERMID – The owner of the three tourist boats burned two weeks ago at in Palau has offered a $2500 reward to anyone who provides information that will lead to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators.

The three 11.5-metre boats valued together at $500,000 belonging to Sunrise Tours were set on fire at the Ngermid Dock.

The vessels were a total wreck and the loss is estimated to have cost the tour company nearly $100,000.

According to acting Bureau of Public Safety director Omtei Ringang, a security officer who was supposed to be guarding the dock was not around when the incident happened.

In his letter to Vice President and Minister of Justice Antonio Bells, Sunrise Tours owner, Ucheldikes Franz Misech, asked for the support of Palau’s
second highest official in solving the case.

“I am writing you this letter as a matter of courtesy and a request for your support in the investigation of the culprits who committed arson on my boats that the Ngermid Dock recently,” he said.

“I wish to offer a $2500 reward to whoever assists the Department of Safety in the arrest and conviction of the arsonist(s) who committed the heinous crime on my property. I believe the reward offering will speed up the conclusion of this investigation,” Misech added.

Local youths and Chinese competitors were suspected as the culprits behind the burning – but of now, no suspects have been arrested in connection with the incident.

The Sunrise Tours company, which mainly caters to the mainland Chinese tourists, started operations just a few months ago.

Grumblings among some local boat owners and operators have been going on since September of last year when boats from China began to arrive and the number of tourists leasing boats from locals began to slow down.

Despite an increase in number of tourist arrivals over the last year, local boat hire businesses and tour operators, that have been enjoying the sudden influx in mid 2014 to late 2015, have since begun to see a decline in their businesses.

Some local operators who partnered with foreign investors saw an increase in their operations and many invested in new boats, but most local operators have recently started to feel the crunch. - PNC sources