Following claims that cruise ships anchored near the Berry Islands caused damage to the seafloor, Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Michael Pintard said an initial dive showed significant damage to marine assets.
He said his ministry is working with the Ministry of Environment on the matter.
“…Divers from the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) and the Department of the Environment have been dispatched to carry out our own anchorage site assessments,” Pintard said in a statement yesterday.
“The initial dive, which was limited in scope, clearly showed significant damage to marine assets allegedly caused by anchors of vessels anchoring in the area. These initial findings necessitate a comprehensive assessment of much of the area between the Berry Islands and Bimini.”
Pintard said a notice was issued to all vessels reminding them that anchorages must be done in a safe manner and that complies with all requirements, including environmental requirements.
He said those requirements include that there is sufficient water depth; sufficient distance between each vessel’s anchorage to ensure ships don’t interfere with each other; sufficient length of anchor chair along the sea bottom to assure a proper angle of holding force to keep the ship safely in place; and sufficient distance from any designated essential marine resource.
Pintard said the government is moving forward to ensure that those responsible for the damage take corrective actions.
“Toward this end, the intergovernmental team has undertaken to do the following urgently,” he said.
“Complete the comprehensive assessment to determine the extent of the damage to our marine environment; quantify the value of the damage and the potential remediation costs; quantify potential loss of revenue to stakeholders who relied on the environmental assets damaged or totally lost; determine gaps that existed in standard operating procedures, policies and/ or legislation that permitted this occurrence or impacts our response in the aftermath of it; [and] engage those responsible so that they would, in the shortest possible time, take corrective actions.”
He added, “The cruise ship industry has long comprised an integral part of the Bahamian economy, partnering with The Bahamas and Bahamians to bring millions of visitors to our shores each year.
“With the onset of the global pandemic and the shutdown of active cruise operations, cruise ships have been allowed to shelter within the territorial waters of The Bahamas.
“Notwithstanding our long partnership, it is The Bahamas’ uncompromising focus to safeguard the health and safety of our citizens and to protect the marine environment and marine resources upon which we all rely.”