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Jun 16, 2016

US Vessel Traveling From Guatemala Runs Aground on Reef in San Pedro

It’s been one year since a Guatemalan gunboat ran aground in Belize’s littoral waters near Glovers Reef; it was reportedly navigating international waters en route to Mexico, when it drifted on to the reef on June eleventh, 2015. Two weeks later, on June twenty-sixth, 2015, a Mexican naval boat also ran aground on the reef near Blackadore Caye. The damages to the reef are extensive and tonight, we report of a pleasure boat that lodged itself atop the reef in front of San Pedro Ambergris Caye. At this time, the boat is being removed from the reef by a number of agencies to prevent further damage to the reef. News Five’s Duane Moody reports from La Isla Bonita. 

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

As residents and tourists on San Pedro looked out to the Caribbean Sea today, they were stunned by the sight of a vessel lodged on the reef, less than a mile from shore. It happened overnight…just before eight o’clock on Wednesday night, the boat, a mainship trawler named Connie Sue, went aground near the San Pedro Channel. The U.S. registered vessel was captained by sixty-six year old American national Roger Day and was en route from Guatemala to U.S.A.

The captain informed authorities that he was in front of Ambergris Caye when his vessel began taking in water. He turned the vessel towards shore, but equipment failure did not allow him to enter through the channel. He crashed on to the reef and Amigos Del Mar responded to the stress call.

 

Miguel Alamilla

Miguel Alamilla, Manager, Hol Chan Marine Reserve

“A little after nine at night and the captain of the boat was already at Amigos Dock and it was dark and late for us to go out so we went out today, this morning to survey the site. It grounded on the reef last night and it is still there and we are working on getting it out and then doing a reef assessment to determine what level of damage happened to the reef. It’s on the reef, right on top of the Belize Barrier Reef; it is thirty-nine foot vessel and I think it is about fourteen thousand pounds, weight. So it is going to be a challenge to remove it from the reef, but we need to somehow remove it.”

 

The cabin cruiser, at its current position is atop fire and rain corals as well as several brain corals and some fan corals. The extent of the damage to the reef is not known, but the longer it remains aground, the more damage it causes.

 

Miguel Alamilla

“I did not jump into the water; it was our biologist that did that, but I am sure that there is some level of damage…there has to be. But the complete assessment needs to be done after the vessel is removed. It’s hard to determine what really happen to the reef until we are able to remove the boat and we can safely—and the weather is calm because it’s on the reef crest—we could safely go inside the area and do a complete assessment.”

 

While the area does not fall within the Hol Cahn Marine Reserve, Manager Miguel Alamilla says that this is the fourth boat to go aground on the reef in recent times. Increase in boat traffic in the area increases the potential of ships grounding.

 

Miguel Alamilla

“For now, it is recurring often because maybe we have more boat traffic in the area, especially up north here in San Pedro. You have a lot of vessels coming in and out. Right there, where this one grounded, there’s the San Pedro Channel which is the entrance that gives you access to the inner reef lagoon and the Caribbean Sea. So when you increase the number of vessels out at sea, the potential of a ship grounding also increases. So maybe that has changed; given that accidents could happen, your engine could stop working, negligence…all those factors can come into play.”

 

When coastguard arrived, four men were seen stealing the engine from the boat. They have since been detained by San Pedro Police.

 

Fitzroy Yearwood

Insp. Fitzroy Yearwood, Press Officer, Eastern Division North

“I know that we have various law enforcement agencies; they are all involved. They are doing an investigation as far as I was informed. I know that an unfortunate incident occurred where the police had to apprehend four male persons that were caught trying to remove some part of that boat. But the virtual complainant, the owner of that boat, wishes not to proceed with any form of court action. While in fact, he doesn’t want any form of action against these persons, these persons have still been detained; they will be questioned and we will look into other incidents where maybe they have some form of involvement where articles of boats in the past have gone missing. So it is not like they are being let off the hook. They will be detained and we will do a proper investigation.”

 

While Day does not wish to press charges against the men, late this evening, officials from the Belize Port Authority, Hol Chan Marine Reserve and a private company started the process of removing the vessel from the reef.

 

Miguel Alamilla

“We have a company that is going to…well they say they can do something and remove it and they’ve actually removed about four vessels from the reef already. So they have experience with pretty much what they are doing.”

 

Duane Moody

“Is there a timeline to seeing that being done?”

 

Miguel Alamilla

“Well yes, we have been…pretty much the Department of Environment oversees these type of operations, but since everything is happening so fast and there is a storm coming in probably tonight or tomorrow so we need to see that this vessel is removed; we want it to be removed at least today.”

 

Duane Moody

“Is that going to happen?”

 

Miguel Alamilla

“I hope. I hope it happens because if it doesn’t, there is a tropical wave I think out there and if it comes in, it can cause more damage to the reef with the movement…the boat will move and it has the potential to cause more damage.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.

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