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Breakdown of equipment causes brief suspension of ISA Assembly

BY KIMONE THOMPSON Associate editor - features thompsonk@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, July 16, 2014    

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THE Urban Development Corporation, which manages the Jamaica Conference Centre, is countering claims that the half-hour suspension of yesterday's Assembly meeting of the International Seabed Authority was a result of faulty equipment.

In an e-mail response to the Jamaica Observer, the corporate relations and marketing department said the interruption was caused by improper usage of the interpretation equipment.

"Interpreters shifted translation equipment around on the desk, causing the wires to be(come) dislodged. All parts of the equipment are fully functional," it said.

President of the Assembly Antonio Francisco Da Costa e Silva Neto moved the motion to suspend the sitting after repeated reports from members that translations were unavailable.

About half an hour into the session, while presenting nominations for the four posts of vice-president, some members from English-speaking countries reported that there was no English translation.

As a result, Russian ambassador Vladimir Mikhailovich Polenov, who was up to speak next, addressed the Assembly in Russian and English.

Prior to that, it was reported that another translation language was unavailable.

Asked whether the problem was technical or with personnel, ISA secretariat staff told the Observer that it was a fault with the equipment.

But the UDC maintains that the equipment was installed in 2009 and is in perfect working order.

"(The equipment is) currently in a good state, however, the system is very complex and sensitive to even temperatures. Hence, a team of technicians is always on hand to address any issue which may occur," the e-mail said.

Asked when was the last time upgrades were done to the system and how often maintenance work is carried out, the corporation said: "Major works were carried out on the system in preparation for last year's ISA meetings and continued into this year at a cost of just over $11 million."

"Weekly maintenance is conducted on the system by our qualified in-house technicians. A more detailed serviced is done by the external contractors at least once per year," it continued.

The ISA secretariat, which is housed on the same grounds as the conference centre, has previously complained about the "poor state of repair" of the headquarters building, which is largely the responsibility of the Jamaican Government, and about the translating equipment at the conference facility, which it rents for its annual sessions.

In the secretary general's report for the period June 2013 to July 2014, which will be presented to the Assembly next Wednesday, but which is being circulated now, the same issues are referenced.

"Over the past several years, the meetings have been adversely affected by persistent problems with the audio systems used for interpretation. While the Jamaica Conference Centre has made efforts to improve the system, interruptions continued to be experienced during the meetings of the Legal and Technical Commission held in February 2014," the report said.

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