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Jun 1, 2023

Alarms Raised By Oil Rig That Entered Belizean Waters for Replenishing

It is not every day that you wake up to the site of a floating oil rig in Belizean waters, especially since there is an indefinite moratorium on offshore drilling enshrined in Belize’s constitution. But, this morning, residents in San Pedro Town up to the shocking discovery of a three hundred and twenty-one foot semi-submersible oil rig named “Frida 1” off the coast of Ambergris Caye. Alarms were instantly raised and people took to social media asking questions and hoping to get answers, since there was no information out on its presence. Soon enough authorities responded and many of those concerns were allayed. News Five’s Paul Lopez reports.


Paul Lopez, Reporting

Residents in San Pedro woke up to the site of this monstrosity just off Ambergris Caye this morning.


Voice of: Jorge Aldana

Voice of: Jorge Aldana, San Pedro Resident

“This morning very early from about seven I began getting information from fellow tour guides and operators sending me pictures of this ship that is an oil rig in front of Ambergris Caye. As it came closer in Ambergris Caye and into the populated area, we became concerned.”


Soon after, Jorge Aldana and others took to social media with images and videos questioning why a floating oil rig would be in Belizean waters. The Government of Belize placed a moratorium on offshore drilling back in 2017.


Jorge Aldana

“We see cruise ship all the time in front of Ambergris Caye so we know the difference between a cruise ship and this monstrosity. So we began to organize ourselves and began asking what it is. Some of our colleagues went out there and verified that it was indeed an oil rig in front of Ambergris Caye.”


Janelle Chanona, the Vice President at Oceana Belize, also began inquiring about the oil rig’s presence in Belizean waters. Oceana Belize was the principal advocate for the passage of the moratorium into law.


Janelle Chanona

Janelle Chanona, Vice President, Oceana Belize

“I knew it wasn’t going to be good when about nine thirty this morning my phone started making all sort of noises and I had about forty-five messages from my contacts in San Pedro. Several of them were sharing photos and asking what this is, why is an oil rig here. They already had the tracker and they were telling me the name of the boat. I was grateful I was sitting down. I was really as shocked as they were and really concerned about what is happening. So, I reached out to the Ministry of Blue Economy, everybody that I could think about that could let me know as quickly what is happening.”


It wasn’t long after that the Belize Port Authority issued a statement advising Belizeans of the presence of a semi-sub mersible drilling unit called “Frida 1”. Belize Port Authority noted that the vessel is calling on the Belize City harbor today for the purpose of replenishing stores. The release went on to say that due to draft restrictions, the ship will not enter the Belize City Harbor and will be conducting clearance formalities while at anchor outside of English Caye. BPA stated that the ship will be in port for approximately six hours before it returns to Mexico.


Janelle Chanona

“Finally we got through to the Port Authority and we reached out back to Ambergris Today who had initially posted the first set of photos and we said you asked us to help with information and here is what we found out that it was a rig in Belizean waters and subsequently the port was saying that it was transiting and will head back out because of a legal issue on the Mexican side, but I think what this whole incident does, if anybody was uncertain enough of how this industry and offshore oil on a whole plays into our local dynamic. I think this incident really shows that some thought should have been given to the fact that this isn’t just a vessel, this is an oil rig and that it would have caused concern for people seeing it.”


The Ministry of Blue Economy also issued a press release stating that it acknowledges the concerns that were raised regarding the sighting of the oil rig off Belize’s coast. The release confirmed that the vessel is present in Belizean waters as part of its re-licensing exercise with Mexican authorities. The Ministry of Blue Economy reaffirmed its unwavering commitment to the protection of Belize’s marine reserves and the maritime space.

Jorge Aldana

“We live out here, we live off the reef. The reef is the primary source of livelihood for most of us on the shores of Belize and the island. Over one third of the population depends on our marine ecosystem for our livelihood, whether it is tourism our fishing products. Anything that would affect the livelihood of Belizeans , of course we would become concerned.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Paul Lopez.

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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