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Mar 17, 2015

Fisheries C.E.O. on Vessel Grounding on Reef

A French captain back on December thirty-first, 2014 crashed his thirty-five-foot steel hull vessel into the reef near some coral rubble when he missed the channel near Caye Caulker. Since then, several attempts have been made to remove the boat that is stuck in approximately five feet of water. The grounded vessel has had residents on Caye Caulker and environmentalists up in arms because of the damage to the corals.  Since January, the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development, through an emergency response protocol including Port Authority, Fisheries Department and the Department of Environment personnel have been trying to remove the vessel, but to no avail. It’s now been almost three months since the incident and there is still no real timeline as to when the boat will be removed. C.E.O. in the ministry, Adele Catzim-Sanchez, says that they are now looking at dismantling the boat as a plan B.

 

Adele Catzim-Sanchez

Adele Catzim-Sanchez, C.E.O., Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development

“In the last few years or so, we have experienced several groundings on the reef and the position of our ministry is that we want to actively engage in dialogue with other sectors so that we can influence the protocols being developed; in this case, particularly for the nautical tourism industry because we do see space in which we can grow the industry and do so recognizing that we have to put some special things in place that maybe other countries don’t have to put in place to protect our reef system. With regards to the ship itself, we have done everything that we could have done to try to maintain the integrity of the boat while taking it off the reef system, but we’ve not been able to do that.  We’ve made several attempts since the first of January to do so and we’ve invested quite a bit of resources in trying to take the boat off the reef. The next step is for us to invest in breaking the ship into parts, to dismantle it in order to lift it off the reef so that it doesn’t continue to compromise the quality and the integrity of the reef system. So it is one of those areas in which you have to give and take and so we are hoping that this experience will enable us to strengthen how we move forward. We are working with experts because we have been looking across Belize to see who has the capacity to remove the ship. There is limited capacity that is available because this isn’t an everyday activity so people don’t invest in the equipment needed to move ships off the reef. But at the same time, we have found that we have had to mobilize teams of people. So we are working actually with the time lines of the people who we feel can be part of that team and that has taken some time. But we had initially expected that by now it would have been off and that is why we are going now to plan B of doing the dismantling to ensure that it comes off. That will take seventeen continuous days of work and as soon as we finalize the contract with the team that will be doing it, it will be seventeen days from then through which it will be to complete the exercise.”

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