Pamela Malinson, former finance director of IAS, lived on Freewinds for 9 years up to 2003.
When she became ill, she was sent back to the UK, and died in the RPF in 2006 of inoperable lung cancer. This is why.
Part I: In the Netherlands Antilles
Previous attempts to get through the smoke screen and reveal the truth were defeated by Scientology PR and their knowledge of how to defeat the system. A complaint made in 2007 produced the following reply.
From Ir. Maurice Adriaens, Secretary of Traffic and Transport, Curacao
Willemstad, 10 August 2007. Subject: Asbestos inspection on the Freewinds.
Because of your email about blue asbestos on board the Freewinds the Director Shipping and Marine has carried out an inspection. The inspection on board the Freewinds was done by two qualified and independent bureaus: the American Quest Environmental Inc. and the classifying department of the ship named Det Norkse Veritas. The inspections carried out concentrated on air ventilation systems, passenger areas, working and public areas and staircases on board the ship.
These inspections revealed there is no concentrations of asbestos being found in the air, nor is there any asbestos found in the airconditioning system of the ship.
I thank you for your concerns and hope to have given satisfactory information.
With many greetings,
Ir. Maurice Adriaens Secretary of Traffic and Transport.
The truth comes to light
The truth came to light on 28 April 2008, when the Daily Herald, Willemstad, Curaçao, carried an article entitled: "Freewinds hides information about presence of asbestos". This news went round very rapidly, at least within the English-speaking Caribbean islands.
"The St Maarten Herald reported that during repair work on the cruise ship, Freewinds, blue asbestos was released and was carried in the ship's ventilation system. The refurbishing and repair work involved removing the ceiling and paneling. The Freewinds calls regularly at Bonaire and many island residents go aboard for various events.
"The Freewind's captain did not report this while Freewind's personnel were working on the ship at the Mathey wharf in Curaçao. The Curaçao Drydock Company (CDM), where the ship was later taken for haul out, heard from the marine surveyors of the presence of asbestos on the ship. It now has to be determined how the asbestos dust, which has been proven to cause lung cancer, can safely be removed from the ship. The CDM has stopped all work on the ship. It was sealed and isolated. Experts plan to investigate and measure the presence of asbestos dust in the hull and surrounding areas.
"Samples taken from the paneling last week by inspectors were sent to the Netherlands. Results of testing showed that they contained substantial amounts of blue asbestos. After an extraordinary meeting, the Curaçao Executive Council decided to inform the public about the incident, to avoid rumors and panic. The presence of asbestos aboard the Freewinds has long been published on Scientology exposé websites.
St Maarten Daily Herald, copied by the Bonaire Reporter, 2-16 May 2008, vol.15, Issue 9, page 8.
M/V Freewinds has been of interest to critics of Scientology for many years. The reasons why are two-fold. They were summarised in 2001 by Bob Minton.
Statement by Bob Minton, March 1, 2001
"Many of you may know that the Freewinds is the only place where Scientologists can get the super-secret OT VIII level. Other courses and auditing are also delivered on this ship, at prices much higher than anywhere else. It is a frequent holiday destination for public Scientologists anxious to limit their exposure to "entheta" in the real world. Because the Freewinds sails in international waters and is therefore outside the reach of any country's law enforcement, there is also reportedly a highly secret RPF on the ship, where Scientology's most high-level and legally dangerous defectors are sent for re-indoctrination. Some of the people who have been there in recent years have reportedly included Marty Rathbun, Ray Mithoff, Lyman Spurlock, Norman Starkey, and Mike Rinder, to name but a few.
"A licensed architect, Lawrence Woodcraft was assigned to prepare detailed plans for remodeling the interior cabins and other spaces on the Freewinds following its purchase by Scientology in 1987. Shortly after arriving on the ship, he noticed a powdery blue fibrous substance under a layer of paint. Upon closer inspection, he recognized it to be "blue" asbestos, the most dangerous form of this carcinogen. Lawrence has written a sworn Declaration concerning this discovery, his attempts to alert Sea Org officers (including David Miscavige's sister-in-law Bitty Miscavige) about the problem, and their refusal to remove it. "
Lawrence Woodcraft affidavit
Why blue asbestos is dangerous
At the OT Summit, 20-24 June 2009, David Miscavige addressed the faithful in his usual glowing terms: "In 2008, to celebrate her 20th anniversary, the Freewinds underwent the largest refit in her history. Far more than a cosmetic upgrade, the ship was stripped from stem to stern, below the water line to the top of her stacks, covering all six decks. She is a brand-new, fully redesigned, technologically advanced, cutting-edge vessel serving as a religious retreat for ministering religious services at the highest levels of Scientology." Source: http://freewinds.blogspot.com/2009_09_01_archive.html (Scientology site)
Those who follow the progress of the tiny leader of Scientology know that he seldom if ever tells the truth. As an example of his attitude to facts we might look at his official statement made at the same event a year earlier (June 28-July 5 2008). He claimed then that 'The Freewinds was totally refurbished in time for this year's Maiden Voyage Anniversary Event.' As we will see, a great deal of necessary renovation, repair and refurbishment of this aged boat was certainly done, beginning February 2008 in Curacao and ending March 2009 in Cartagena (Colombia). But it is highly probable that Freewinds is still leaking blue asbestos dust with every vibration.
An inside view of the problem
Why this should be so is clear from the post made by Lawrence Woodcraft in ESMB in 2008. A British-trained architect and a convert to Scientology, he worked on the renovation of the ship when it was first acquired in 1987-88 and recognised even then that the problem was beyond resolution:
"Imagine the long passageways of the Freewinds running the full length of the ship and giving access to the cabins and other rooms, at every deck level. Above your head you have ceiling tiles in a metal grid exactly like an office building (the ceiling tiles are asbestos, but not blue absestos). Take down the tiles and you see a maze of ducts, pipes electrical wiring, just a ton of stuff. This is then attached to the underside of the steel deck above with hangers bolted into the deck, through a 3 inch layer of sprayed asbestos. There is no way to encapsulate the asbestos without coating all the pipes etc. which you need full access to for maintenance. I just do not see anyway to do this. If the Church says they have made it safe, HOW? It simply cannot be done. That is why nearly all cruise ships from this era have been scrapped.
"Combine this with the fact that the Freewinds was originally built as a car ferry which needed even more stringent fireproofing for obvious reasons (a cargo of gasoline laden cars is potentially lethal, there have been many ferry fires). The entire ship is divided into vertical and horizontal fire compartments with steel decks and walls lined with sprayed blue asbestos. This was compromised during the original renovations but every time you have to change a pipe or wiring during routine maintenance, the asbestos is right there, with the pipe attached to the steel through the asbestos. No matter how many times OSA declares it safe I simply don't see a way to encapsulate the asbestos and stopping it going airborne."
Peter Schilte, who spent about five years in the Dutch Royal Navy, confirmed this picture in a post to OCMB: "When asbestos is used for isolation in a ship, (in panels, the hull of the ship, all sorts of pipes) then it will loosen bit by bit as dust. You see, every ship moves, bends, rattles and shakes when it is sailing. These movements make the asbestos crumble and it subsequently spreads in the air all over the ship through the ventilation system. Not much, but asbestos is already hazardous in very small amounts. This ship, infested with asbestos, has been sailing for years now, and I am afraid that in a few years the first victims will suffer from cancer. And this kind of cancer is one of the nastiest kind. I hope this will be a wake up call for the authorities in the Antilles."
How to pass air-quality tests
How, we might wonder, did Freewinds passed all her control tests from 1987 to 2008 despite the quantity of blue asbestos on board? If the tests are restricted to testing air quality the trick was revealed by educatedrodent, posting on 06 May 2008: "I know someone who has been exposed to asbestos. In talking with him about this he said that the standard procedure to pass [tests to detect air-borne asbestos] is to turn off the engine during inspections so that any loose asbestos settles out of the air. Apparently this was a standard op for many years until someone caught on." Evidently this op was well-known by the crew of the Freewinds and worked up to April 2008. Karin Pouw stresses that air quality when tested was always up to US standards. But tests are always made in port, in a stationary ship, after the crew had had time to clean up.
Some of the asbestos on Freewinds - Astra Woodcraft reported 70 tons of it - was taken out and apparently dumped at the Malpais land-fill site on Curacao but there is no certainty that the removal or dumping was properly supervised or that the owners of the dump even knew what it was. The asbestos left on board may have been encapsulated by spraying with some substance. Even if this is true it raises several further problems. Firstly, every time work is done in the future on ducts, pipes, or wiring, the encapsulated asbestos will be disturbed - and a single microscopic fibre can be fatal. The other problem is that encapsulation is not recognised as a suitable abatement technique in the US in cases when the blue asbestos is old and friable, as it is here. However Freewinds is registered in Panama and never enters American waters. It is also probable that with the continued vibration of an old ship the asbestos will itself work loose. And we have no proof that any such work was done.
So far no competent authority has said that Freewinds is free of asbestos. The crew, as Scientologists, are trained to lie convincingly and may even believe that asbestos is harmless. The only responsible conclusion is that the ship is still comprehensively polluted with the stuff and that it will continue to escape as dust during sea trips, or whenever work is done on board, regardless of what tests may show when she is in port. The owners would not allow such tests to be made if they were not certain she would pass.
The new SOLAS regulations which come into force in 2010 are a further obstacle, which has led to the scrapping of some sea-worthy but elderly boats. All materials on board must be non-combustible, and there are mandatory requirements for smoke detection and alarm and sprinkler systems in accommodation and public areas, emergency lighting, general emergency alarm systems and other means of communication. But it is believed that Freewinds, after all her refits, is now compliant with this new protocol. Solas 2010: http://www.imo.org/Conventions/contents.asp?topic_id=257&doc_id=647
GreyLensman in ESMB 
"Nonfriable (solid, not crumbling) asbestos is okay if sealed up and undisturbed - like asbestos floor tile or siding. Sealed up doesn't mean covered lightly by paneling or metal suspended ceiling. It means completely enclosed either in a substantial barrier or beneath a coating. And I'm pretty sure that blue asbestos in this form is friable, meaning it will distribute in air and migrate. And you aren't supposed to cover that stuff, you have to remove it.
"Most older ships with this stuff were scrapped, in one case the ship wasn't worth salvage for scrap, they sunk it in deep water. This is the case of the church making a serious financial error in purchasing a worthless ship (I'm sure they got a good price). Because of the policies and the inability to make a correct decision on the part of Sea Org personnel, the danger was literally covered up. Can you imagine being the I/C of this original renovation? 'Sir we can't renovate the ship because its a friggin death trap...' Sadly it could never happen."
Peter Schilte in OCMB, 2008
"I've been around the world in the time when I was in the Dutch Royal Navy. I was approximately about 5 years stationed on a ship. When asbestos is used for isolation in a ship, (in panels, the hull of the ship, all sorts of pipes) then it will loosen bit by bit as dust. You see, every ship moves, bends, rattles and shakes when it is sailing. These movements make the asbestos crumble and it subsequently spreads in the air all over the ship through the ventilation system. Not much, but asbestos is already hazardous in very small amounts. This ship, infested with asbestos, has been sailing for years now, and I am afraid that in a few years the first victims will suffer from cancer. And this kind of cancer is one of the nastiest kind. I hope this will be a wake up call for the authorities in the Antilles."
educatedrodent, 06 May 2008
"I do know someone who has been exposed to asbestos. In talking with him about this he said that the standard procedure to pass these things [tests to detect asbestos] is to turn off the engine during inspections so that any loose asbestos settles out of the air. Apparently this was a standard op for many years until someone caught on."
Freewinds underwent major structural repairs and an internal refit during the period February 2008 and March 2009. At Curacao in the first half of 2008 the main contractor in an $18 million contract (Astra Woodcraft again) was the American-Polish Nordica Engineering who employed 240 workers from their Polish branch. The Swedish firm, AB Tingstad Snickeri & Inredning (TSI), were sub-contractors for refitting public spaces. After asbestos was discovered on board, Nordica withdrew its workers at the end of April but not before they had been exposed to asbestos dust for several weeks.
This can be related to the DNV report of 1 April 2008. The date suggests it followed an inspection of the ship at the Mathey warf in Otrobanda. Curacao. Overdue CC 187 10 March 2008, issued in Curacao 01 April 2008. Several bottom longitudinals, longitudinal girders and floor plates found wasted (DBT3PS 121-135, DBT3SB 121-135, Void tank 109-110). Additional UT measurements on all structure members and bulkheads are required in these tanks. Wasted area's exceeding allowable limits shall be repaired at next dry-docking. In other words, her hull structures were seriously eroded and had to be rebuilt.
A second DNV report dates from 26 April 2008. At this date the ship was in dry dock in Curacao. Overdue CC: 188 26 April 2008, SOLAS & Flag State Services issued 5 May 2008. Further to CC 187. Pitting holes observed in the ship side of fresh water storage double bottom tank 3P(121-135), aft part. To be repaired before leaving dry dock.
The firms involved
In addition to CDM, several other firms were involved in this renovation: Nordica Engineering of Florida and Poland, AB Tingstad Snickeri & Inredning (TSI) of Sweden, and little AirQuest of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
This company has a branch in Miami and a branch in Gdansk, Poland. It was the main contractor and was hired to replace structural elements in the hull. Nordica had worked on Freewinds several times previously.
2000, June/July 2000: Steelwork and pipework. 2000, September: Steelwork, forward hold, etc. 2001, November: deck offices renovation. HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) work during dry-dock. 2002, May: Steel and pipework; work in engine room.
This is the kind of work Nordica does. It would be normal to get this company to deal with the structural problems shown up by the DNV report in 2008. However it seems odd that Nordica had never before noticed the presence on board of many tons of loose, friable blue asbestos.
To fulfil their contract in Curacao they imported 240 Polish workers from their similar operation in Gdansk. These men worked for six weeks, presumably replacing or repairing the eroded hull structures. They lived on board and were unaware of any asbestos problem. Nor did their employer warn them. Maybe they did not know, but the asbestos was already there in 2000-2002.
The contract for interior refurbishment was subcontracted to AB Tingstad Snickeri & Inredning (TSI), a Swedish company, who claim on their website to have completed their work at the end of June 2008. They were responsible for the supply and installation of all fittings, walls and ceiling units, and for the refitting of all public spaces including stairs, theatre, lecture halls, study rooms, conference rooms, office, beauty salon, cinema, library, pool deck, gym, sun deck, bridge, restaurants, bars, cafes, bookshop and the staff canteen - but apparently not cabins. They supplied desks, office furniture, sofas and teak floors among much else. They are no doubt responsible for the glamorous backdrop to photographs of the October MARPOL seminar, held on board in Curacao.
http://www.tsiab.se/referens.asp?pageid=273&treeld=23 also gives a deck-by-deck layout of the boat. Thank you, someone, for this leak.
Some inside information
Astra Woodcraft is a daughter of the architect, Lawrence Woodcraft. She is one of the founders of the Ex-Scientology Kids message board and, with her father's connections, liable to be well-informed about building contracts and similar matters. On 27 August 2008, she posted the following message:
"Today I found out some very interesting, in-depth and somewhat shocking news in regards the Freewinds. In early 2008, a contract was made between Scientology and a company out of Miami called Nordica Engineering. This contract was for approximately $18 million and was for the work of completely stripping the Freewinds, and then re-fitting with new furniture, carpets, wiring, etc. [As noted above, the non-engineering element was subcontracted.] Nordica Engineering brought in approximately 240 workers from Poland who slept on board the Freewinds in cabins until they were moved to a camp after 1 1/2 months. Nordica Engineering was given no warning or information in regards blue asbestos or other asbestos panelling on the Freewinds. Apparently, in addition to the blue asbestos which is sprayed on all over the Freewinds, a lot of the panelling on the Freewinds was made with asbestos. A giant container at the dock in Curacao was filled with approximately 70 tons of asbestos, whereabouts now unknown.
"The work proceeded until April 2008 when the Freewinds was sealed due to asbestos contamination at the drydock in Curacao. Nordica Engineering has apparently not been fully paid and is owed upwards of approximately $3.5 million.
"A separate company [Airquest, Inc. of Fort Lauderdale] was brought out from Florida to clean up the asbestos at a cost of approximately $2 million. Some of the asbestos was removed, some encapsulated, but apparently there is still loose asbestos on-board. The ship is now in Aruba (due to Curacao dry-dock being booked) but will be brought back to dry-dock in Curacao in November to finish up work and get its DNV certification. Nordica Engineering appears to have been misled or outright lied to as regards the asbestos situation. There are 240 workers from Poland who have apparently been following the story about the Freewinds online. They are in possession of the affidavit that my dad, Lawrence Woodcraft, wrote back in 2001 regarding the asbestos he saw on the Freewinds in 1987. They have been majorly exposed to this asbestos, sleeping on-board while the work was being done and now they are, from reports, very upset to say the least.
"Nordica Engineering is apparently still negotiating with Scientology executives Sue Price and Bob Wright, hoping to receive payment but it seems unlikely."
This suggests that Nordica worked for two months, from 21 February (the day after the last of its three February cruises) up to 25 April, when blue asbestos was confirmed on board, but left the bulk of the work unfinished. It was still unfinished in August and in September when she was docked at Aruba waiting for the Curacao dry dock to become available again, though apparently AB TSI continued on internal work during this period. It appears that from February to April CDM had its own workers on board.
The major repair work required involved removing the ceiling and paneling, whereupon blue asbestos was released into the ventilation system. This was discovered by independent surveyors, presumably employed by DNV. The Freewinds' captain was also aware of the problem (and had been aware of it for many years) but did not report leaks of asbestos so long as it was only Scientology personnel (Sea Org and RPF) who were working on the ship. The Curacao Drydock Company (CDM), where the ship had been taken for repair work on the hull, heard from a surveyor that there was asbestos on the ship.
They stopped all work on the ship on Friday 25 April 2008 and immediately sealed it.
Samples taken from the panelling were sent to the Netherlands and found to contain 'significant levels of blue asbestos'. Various local people became involved. Local Commissioners Eugene Rhuggenaath (Economic Affairs) and Humphrey Davelaar (Public Health) said that experts would investigate and measure the presence of asbestos dust in the hull and surrounding areas. CDM interim director Frank Esser and Christiene van der Biezen, deputy head of the Department of Labour Affairs, were accompanied by two inspectors and head of the Health Department Tico Ras but what they discovered no-one knows. The flag state, Panama, also got involved: "We are sending someone so that they can tell us what happened, where it came from, since when it has been there," said Panama Maritime Authority's director of merchant marine Alfonso Castillero in a statement to Lloyd's List. Again that is all we know.
The two 'professionals' who acted as inspectors are named as Cedric Martina and Ronald Sluis. Two gentlemen of the name are natives of Curacao. They do not, as one might expect, have anything to do with asbestos or ships. Cedric Martina is an accountant employed by KPMG, an international firm of accountants who work as advisors for a local company, Vidanova Pension Management. Ronald Sluis is an elderly black man who once stood as a candidate for MSL, a left-wing party in Curacao.
No-one knows of any professional diagnosis of the problem or supervision of its treatment. One newspaper article suggests there was dissent between the various experts and Scientologists over what a 'significant' level might be. No public announcement has ever been made by anyone in authority. Freewinds promised to give an official declaration but did not. Harbour captain Ludwig Alpes referred everybody to the dock company, CDM, and CDM said they could not discuss their client's business.
The unanswered questions, then as now, are whether or not the blue asbestos, which causes inoperable cancer, could be removed from the ship and to what extent it was removed.
If we were to believe Scientology's spokesperson, Karin Pouw, there was no problem. On 1 May she claimed (against all probability) that "the next cruise is scheduled for Thursday, May 8. Inspections done on April 15, 2008 and April 28, 2008 again confirmed that the air quality is safe, in accordance with the standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Clean Air Act.' (see what xxx had to say about that, above). Again she claimed that 'the Freewinds on a regular basis checks the air quality on board of the ship and always meets the American standards. Inspections on April 15 and 28 confirm that the air quality is safe, in accordance with the standards of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and US Clean Air Act.' Yes, but what about the old dusty asbestos remaining on board?
Part II: Colombia 2009
Lawrence Woodcraft on 29 September 2009 on ars
"Apparently the Freewinds has snuck into Columbia for a refit. I was contacted by a radio show there and did an interview. They are very upset by the possibility of blue asbestos contamination similar to Curacao. I would imagine that freewinds is no longer welcome at the drydock in Curacao, following the fiasco there last year. They have obviously shopped around to find some place to accept them. "
Translated from Spanish:
In April 2008, the sumptuous passenger ship Freewinds was undergoing repairs in Curaçao when it was discovered that its structure contained blue asbestos, a very dangerous material, banned in most civilised countries as being a cause of cancer. Immediately, the port authority of the island ordered the work to stop, but not before 240 Polish workers had been put at risk.
Warnings about the dangers posed by the ship, used as a traveling school by the controversial 'church' of the Scientology had been made already by Lawrence Woodcraft, an architect who in 1987 belonged to the cult and was involved in the work of restructuring the ship. In 2001 he denounced the risks of asbestos and noted the indifference of the authorities of the church before that indisputable reality.
Of events in Curaçao there is fragmentary evidence. It is said that, after the ship was sealed, the Curaçao Drydock Company tried to resume the work, but the contamination was so widespread that it decided not to risk its local workers. Then Scientology sent members of its private force, the Sea Org, who collected and disposed of the material at the Selikor land-fill dump, supposedly leaving the ship free of asbestos. But Woodcraft is not convinced: "I simply do not see how could they achieve it. The material is everywhere, even in cracks under the paint".
After the scandal of Curaçao, where did the Freewinds go? What country would innocently accept to carry out the comprehensive refit that caused 240 Poles to flee, like souls carried by the devil? Of course, the ever-welcoming Colombia. . .
At the beginning of this year, the Universal newspaper of Cartagena published the news that the Freewinds had docked in the city for repairs. The architect in charge of the refit stated that Colombia should be proud that this refit was being carried out in Cartagena, that there was a budget of four million dollars, and that some 500 Colombians would be employed and will benefit from the great project. No-one mentioned Scientology which left readers with the idea that this was a cruise liner like any other.
Once revamped, Freewinds resumed her function as a training ship, now using Cartagena as its home port. There can be no doubt that Scientology plans to infiltrate in Colombia, a country where nobody asks difficult questions, like those which have led to court action in France. She anchors in the port of Cartagena, where she often receives Colombian visitors, many of whom arrive there having been promised a "course" that will help them to overcome any personal problem that they may be facing. Once lured on board they see the luxury, the graphic worship of the founder of the church, L. Ron Hubbard, the photos of Tom Cruise, the 'T' on all sides, and only then realize where they are.
Apart from all the investigations into Scientology's doctrines, doubts should focus on the enormous risk for health arising from the presence in Cartagena of this ship, as blue asbestos can cause an aggressive type of lung cancer called mesothelioma. The fact that no-one in the city is aware of the bad reputation of the Freewinds is entirely consistent with the position of the Scientologists, who have never accepted the problem. They repeat the argument of that if Hubbard did not refer to asbestos as dangerous there nothing to worry about.
It is lamentable that no authority has drawn attention to this problem, and that the Dimar [Dirección General Marítima] has not investigated in depth, as they did in Curaçao. At risk, the health of 500 workers of this poor country.
Woodcraft radio interview, 29 September 2009
Translated from Spanish http://www.wradio.com.co/nota.aspx?id=887172
Although the American architect Lawrence Woodcraft said on La W [a radio station] that the Church of Scientology ship Freewinds, which until a few days ago was in Cartagena, was a danger as it contained blue asbestos, a carcinogen that endangers the lives of anyone in contact with it, Capt. Victor Howard denied this.
Equally, the architect Carlos Hernando Reyes, who worked on this boat said that he had not removed contaminating blue asbestos particles. "We changed beds, bedside tables, seating and had no handling of asbestos contaminant," the architect said.
The American architect Woodcraft began by explaining that this ship was built in the 60s to transport cars and did not rule out that today, more than 40 years later, the ship may represent some kind of danger as components have worked loose. However, Capt. Victor Howard of the Port of Cartagena also ruled out any danger from work done to the ship in Cartagena in areas where blue asbestos particles were present.
The Church of Scientology Creates New Job Opportunities (late March 2009)
Translated from Spanish
Cartagena could in future become a popular port for the interior renovation of cruise ships. The first experience of this kind is about to culminate 31 March with the completion of the work to remodel the interior of the Freewinds ship, registered in Panama, which these days is berthed at Pier Resort Manga while the renovation continues.
The project is supervised by Carlos Hernando Reyes, an architect from Bogota, who graduated from the University of La Salle, with extensive experience in the design and planning of five-star hotels. This project could lead to Cartagena with other Caribbean islands doing this class of jobs for cruise lines that ply these seas, such as Curacao and The Bahamas.
The project, which has a budget of over $4 million, is for the renovation of the interior of the vessel, with all design, labor and materials supplied by Colombia, Reyes said. It generated an estimated 500 jobs, of which 100 were from Cartagena. The contractors also hired some equipment and work from companies in Bogota and Medellin. Architects, furniture manufacturers in Medellín, craftsmen, electricians, plumbers, fitters of ceramics, and logistics companies have also benefited.
The ship has been refitted twice before, first on Curaçao [in 1987-8] and a partial refit 10 years ago, in the Bahamas.
"This is proof that the country trust us," said the captain of the Freewinds, Ludwing Alpers. [The meaning of this is not clear. More probably, in context, the CoS had trusted Colombia to do an important job.]
The ship, with capacity for 600 people, has 9 floors, 21 foot draft and a length of 136 meters.  More Options
Carlos Hernando Reyes, who has also worked for Royal Caribbean, revealed that there are talks with a second ship owner who operates in the Caribbean and who are interested in signing contracts with Design Support Team, based in Florida, and subsidiary in Bogota for the work of remodeling one of its units. This company is now considering installing an office in Cartagena, as it found in the city a great potential for such projects.
"I think Cartagena has a great deal of potential, which today seems scattered, but which together enable these projects to take place in the city. There is infrastructure, there are human resources and materials, and there is a growing cruise industry that give support to these initiatives, "said Reyes.
Carlos Reyes claimed that the Freewinds meets all international standards in the handling of asbestos. A source said that many older ships have this material in their configuration that is used as heat insulation, but this must be encapsulated, so in the case of this ship there is no problem. "If not, she would not be sailing," said the source.
This simplistic argument most probably reflects assurances given by CoS. No doubt Mr Reyes and his Colombian team did a splendid job on this undeserving object. It would be regrettable if its reputation as a center for refitting cruise ships was no sooner established than tarnished.
It seems to be generally accepted in the media, and confirmed by Lawrence Woodcraft, that there is still blue asbestos on the Freewinds. There is no evidence that it has been encapsulated by professional workers; indeed, American web sources state that encapsulation is not an acceptable option when dealing with old friable powdery material.
Page created 05 November 2009, 16.23 by Auchraw. Edited 16 November 2009.