MSC Cruises and the government have committed to making an area around Ocean Cay a marine protected area, it was revealed yesterday, as MSC continues to work towards the official opening of the island in November, after spending $300 million to remediate and develop the former industrial site.
Executive Chairman of MSC Cruises Pierfrancesco Vago explained yesterday at a press conference that MSC turned the former aragonite mining site from a contaminated industrial site into a “paradise” at the hefty cost of $300 million. It now expects 500,000 people to visit the site annually aboard MSC’s cruise ships.
Vago also revealed that National Geographic will produce a documentary about the remediation and transformation of Ocean Cay that will air internationally.
MSC Senior Vice President of Port Development Gianluca Suprani said 7,500 tonnes of scrap, including tires and steel, were removed from the island, which lies 20 miles south of Bimini, during the remediation process. He added that MSC found three areas on the island contaminated with hydrocarbons that had to be properly cleaned and safely disposed of.
“It’s a complete transformation,” said Suprani. “It’s something we believe can help cruise ecotourism in The Bahamas.”
MSC has turned Ocean Cay into a marine reserve and has committed to sustainable development on the island, ecosystem restoration projects, a conservation center and the safeguarding of coral colonies.
According to MSC’s fact sheets, “Ocean Cay will become a base for marine biologists to conduct scientific research into coral restoration.”
Chairman of the MSC Foundation Matthew McKinnon said the MSC executives met with Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday, where the commitment was made to make the area around Ocean Cay a protected area.
“We’ve just been meeting with the prime minister and we’re pleased to be able to say that the government has given its blessing to the creation of a marine protected area around Ocean Cay,” said McKinnon.
“I think this is one of the only instances in the world where a tourist destination is actually sited within a dedicated marine protected area.”
McKinnon explained that the area around Ocean Cay has been found to be populated by fish that are commercially important to The Bahamas, but he lamented that the ecosystem is in a “degraded and declining” state.
General Manager of Ocean Cay Michelle McGregor explained that hundreds of Bahamians have applied to work on Ocean Cay, where 120 jobs will be available for locals. She added that 10 to 15 expatriate workers with specialties will also be hired on the island.
According to McGregor, MSC is still looking for good swimmers with good personalities who will be trained as lifeguards for the island.
“We will train them to become American Red Cross Lifeguard certified,” she said.