The Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) was forced to shut down one of its main engines yesterday after at least 100 feet of power cables and the maintenance and service lines to that engine were severed at BEC’s Clifton Pier plant on Sunday night, according to BEC Executive Chairman Leslie Miller.
During a site inspection at the facility yesterday, Miller said he believes it was an act of sabotage, though several managers who were questioned by him about the incident were reluctant to make any formal accusation.
Workers found the severed cables in the engine and auxiliary rooms after powering down the 31-megawatt engine, which began to overheat yesterday morning, Miller said.
The lines in the engine room are five feet underground. “It disappoints me greatly that a senior man, who has worked at BEC for over 30 years, could come with a viewpoint that a man could come off the street, walk through the gate, walk into the building, know what tiles to pick up inside the building and cut the right wires, please,” Miller told reporters.
“You think any Bahamian I tell that to will believe that? ‘Mr. Miller that’s a lucky fellow’. He came through the gate and no one saw him.
“He went into the engine room and no one saw him. He knew which tiles to pick up that had no markings and managed to cut the right wires and no one saw him.”
Miller added, “They know and I know that this was not the work of someone off the street. These were workers at BEC, and I don’t want to get in an argument with them about that; that’s done.”
The engine is expected to be down until the end of the week while workers make repairs and troubleshoot the extent of the
damage, Miller said.
He said supplementing the power loss at the Blue Hills Power Station could cost the corporation in excess of $250,000 per day in extra fuel.
Miller suggested it could mean an increase in the cost of electricity this summer if the engine has sustained major damage.
He was unable to provide a cost for the repairs or whether the engine has sustained any major damage.
He recently pledged a 10 percent decrease in the cost of electricity to consumers by the end of the summer.
BEC spent $10 million to service both engines at Clifton Pier in hopes that they would operate at full capacity during the summer, according to Miller.
“Last week we had Clifton up to 110-megawatts,” he said. “Now with that engine down we probably have it around 60 something.
“These guys know that for us to operate effectively and bring your cost down, Clifton has to be running by at least 100-megawatts to take the load off Blue Hills.
“We can run up to 120 and we would be satisfied with 100, but this sabotage is intentional to hold back our efforts in giving the Bahamian people a break on their electricity bill.”
Miller said while there appears to be a lack of accountability regarding the matter, a full internal and police investigation will be launched.
“This could potentially cost us millions of dollars in addition to the outages that we can ill afford because remember when that engine is out we are not making any money producing electricity,” Miller said.
“It hurts us in every aspect of our business, but it is the principle of it that you have people working for you who are going to sabotage your operations; it’s criminal.”
The Bahamas Electrical Workers Union and Miller have been at odds for several months over overtime and a rostering system implemented at the corporation in March.
The union’s attorneys recently filed action in the Supreme Court. Miller said yesterday he had not contacted the union about the incident.
He said he was also shocked to learn that the corporation, which he indicated has a net value of close to $980 million, does not have any surveillance cameras at its Clifton Pier power station.
He pledged that surveillance cameras will be installed at each plant on New Providence, and security will be expanded within the next 30 days.
By Royston Jones, Jr.
Guardian Staff Reporter