Environmental protection of the Bahamian seas
Jealously guarding the marine environment has long been on the front-burner of Bahamian environmentalists and successive Bahamian governments.
As minister charged with responsibility for the environment, one expects Romauld Ferreira would be primary among those informed and knowledgeable about top environmental issues impacting the country. The minister’s comments, as reported in a story by Rachel Knowles in the April 29 edition of this newspaper, on Carnival corporation’s admitted infractions of international and U.S. environmental standards suggest otherwise, however.
It is not news that in the year following its conviction in a U.S. District Court for systematically dumping oily waste into the ocean and lying about it, Carnival Cruise Line illegally dumped 500,000 gallons of wastewater and additional thousands of gallons of food waste and plastics at sea, most of it in Bahamian waters. A quick review of the internet reveals Carnival to be a habitual offender of environmental standards. Other cruise lines are also offenders.
In spite of these facts, the minister refers to wastewater dumping in Bahamian waters by Carnival as an “allegation” to be investigated and which, if proven accurate, would cause him “revulsion” in the face of such “environmental savagery”. The minister’s comments provide little comfort to the public; rather they suggest that the minister is proverbially “out to lunch”.
We all share the minister’s revulsion, but what we wait to learn is the advice given the government toward strengthening our hand against a repeat offending cruise ship corporation with whom we are compelled to continue to do business.
A visit to the Bahamas Maritime Authority’s webpage reveals that The Bahamas is party to some 30 international conventions, treaties and protocols meant to enhance international cooperation to govern the use of the seas and to protect the marine environment. Several of these conventions entered in to force for The Bahamas as early as 1976 when we were truly a fledgling new state.
What the public needs to learn is which of these conventions and protocols signed by The Bahamas were enacted as a part of Bahamian domestic law. Of particular interest to Bahamians are the steps being taken by the minister to ensure that the MARPOL Convention and its protocols dealing with the prevention of pollution from ships are made part of domestic law. This will enable The Bahamas to deal effectively with the Carnival corporation’s ships as well as with all other cruise and merchant ship corporations whose vessels traverse our seas.
The minister might also consider what steps might be adopted by the government to establish standards to be observed by all cruise ships calling on Bahamian ports. We are informed that cruise ships are not permitted to burn certain fuels while in Florida ports, a practice which is unregulated in The Bahamas.
We are also informed that cruise ship operators are not permitted to use certain paints to refresh their ships’ siding while in Florida ports, another unregulated practice in The Bahamas.
We urge the minister and the government to urgently begin to address the loopholes and weaknesses which exist in our environmental maritime laws and regulations so as to afford our waters improved protection.