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Jun 16, 2015

Guatemalan Vessel Had ‘Sovereign Immunity’

On Wednesday, Guatemalan gunboat GC-651, Tecum Uman, allegedly suffered mechanical difficulties and crashed into the reef just off Middle Caye in the Glover’s Reef system. By Saturday morning, it was pulled off by a Guatemalan tug and was under tow, on the way back to Puerto Barrios. There was serious concern about the presence of the gunboat so far into Belizean waters, and there is even more concern today because it was allowed to return to Guatemala without the usual legal byplay over damages to the reef and an assessment of cost. Still, Guatemala claims the cayes so it will be interesting to see if they will be prepared to pay for any damages. There’s been no official government release, but News Five did manage to get an explanation from Acting C.E.O. in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Audrey Wallace, via phone. Wallace told us that the vessel was saved from detention under the UN Convention on the laws of the seas.


Audrey Wallace

Via Phone: Audrey Wallace, Acting C.E.O., Ministry of Foreign Affairs

“The Department of the Environment is currently doing the final environmental assessment of the damage. As we speak I understand that they’re on the site and they’re going to be completing that work today and then they’re going to be using their mathematical formulas to come up with an assessment of the damages and turn that over to the Ministry of national Security and Ministry of Foreign Affairs for further action. From the preliminary assessment that we received, there appears to be minimal damage because it was on the crest of the reef which means that it wasn’t near the coral wall. Under international laws there is a thing called Innocent Passage which basically allows a vessel to pass through our territorial waters. Again under international laws, it is our understanding that they don’t have to announce when they are passing through territorial waters. And also that under international laws we are not supposed to detain or arrest any of these vessels because they enjoy what is called sovereign immunity. So adhering to this the Government of Belize saw no need to detain this vessel or attempt to detain this vessel. In addition to the international laws and conventions that govern such a situation, there really was no reason to detain the vessel. What we did was serve notice of our intention to seek compensation for the damages once the assessment is complete and so we await that assessment and as we get that we will act on it with the Guatemalan authorities.”


News Five tried to reach Chief Environmental Officer Martin Alegria today for an update on the assessment, but were unsuccessful. 

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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3 Responses for “Guatemalan Vessel Had ‘Sovereign Immunity’”

  1. CEO says:

    If the Guats are not extending any professional courtesy and respect to us as a neighbor State why do we keep doing it for them?

  2. me says:

    If it was the other way around where the coast guards did that in Guatemalan territory you bet they would be behind bars and being terrorized right now as well as having to pay a fortune having to pay a fortune. Hog know where to scratch. Or cow know where weak fence is.

  3. NYorker says:

    Watch ya all a unu. Its better to live in peace and harmony with you neighba. Especially when yu neighba more powerful dan you.

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