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Jun 12, 2015

Guatemalan Coast Guard Vessel Remains Grounded Near Glovers Reef

Tonight, News Five can confirm that Guatemalan military vessel GC-651 is still high and dry, perched on the reef between Middle Caye and Long Caye in the Glover’s Reef system, thirty-six miles from the Dangriga mainland. The Coast Guard has stated that the passage of the vessel through Belize’s territorial waters is allowed, under the protocol of Innocent Passage. Local authorities have verified with their Mexican counterparts that both Guatemalan military vessels, crewed by cadets from the Guatemalan Naval Academy, were heading from Puerto Barrios to Isla Mujeres, Mexico as part of a training exercise. That preliminary investigation has quelled National Security concerns, but there is still the matter of damage to the reef. At three Thursday evening, a Marine Casualty Investigation Team, including two representatives from the Department of the Environment, arrived at the site. Following an investigation, the Department this evening issued a release which states, quote – “it has been learnt that the area where the naval vessel grounded comprises of bear rocks with minimal damage seen along the vessel’s path,” end quote. The release explains that it is believed that the fact that the vessel was jet propelled and has a flat bottom explains the minimal damage found. The Department release also verifies that early this morning, a Guatemalan tugboat tried to pull GC-651 off the reef, but the ropes used kept breaking. The intention, then, is to bring in additional ropes from Guatemala and try again on Saturday. When the vessel is removed, a more comprehensive assessment will be done, and the findings then forwarded to the Ministries of National Security and Foreign Affairs. But there’s another pressing question. What happens when the vessel is removed? Generally when a commercial or civilian vessel damages the reef, it is impounded, and the Captain detained, until an arrangement for payment of those damages can be reached.  Sources tell us that the intention in this case, though, is to get the vessel back to Puerto Barrios. News Five tried multiple times to get information from the Coast Guard today, but with no success. We also contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and were told that the C.E.O. is out of the country, but a release would be sent out this evening. That release never came.

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