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#318684 - 01/15/09 03:51 AM Ship aground?
Peter Jones Offline
There appears to be a sizeable container ship aground on the barrier reef opposite south Turneffe. Anyone know anything about it?

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#318696 - 01/15/09 05:24 AM Re: Ship aground? [Re: Peter Jones]
dabunk Offline
Cargo ship stuck on reef near Southern Long Caye
The owners and or pilot of a cargo vessel may find themselves in trouble after the boat ran aground near Glover’s Reef today.

The incident occurred at coordinates 17.05.1 North, 87.59.4 West or just east of Southern Long Caye and about fifteen miles south of English Caye. The ship, bearing the name Western Haven, had onboard fifteen crew members, mainly Philippinos. It was normally chartered by Sea Borne Marines of Houston Texas to take general merchandise to various countries and on this trip, and had left Belize City on Tuesday with empty containers enroute to Guatemala. On Thursday, the vessel’s owners from Ryder Shipping of the Netherlands will arrive in Belize to take assessments of the damage. Chief Environmental Officer, Martin Alegria, says the Department of Environment is working along with the Fisheries Department and Belize Port Authority in their investigations.

Voice of Martin Alegria, Chief Environmental Officer
“From our angle, the environmental implications of taking out that ship from where it is to minimize the damage on the environment, in this case, the Barrier Reef on the corals and demarcate the area that this happened, in terms of GPS readings etcetera. In short, what we do is we do two things: we do preliminary assessment of what the situation is to recommend how to take it out from the ground area. Secondly, what we do thereafter is an environmental assessment of the damage that has been caused, along with Fisheries in this case to valuate the damage to the environment; in this case, coral formation, noh, if that’s the case and make a valuation of what it is in order to bill a case for the charging of these vessels that run aground. The case though, if we do develop a case and carry it to court is strengthened when Port Authority, in this case, would also do their investigations during the site visits we both do or do jointly

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#318704 - 01/15/09 06:53 AM Re: Ship aground? [Re: dabunk]
Marty Offline

A cargo ship is tonight lodged on Belize’s barrier reef system. It is the Westerhaven – a Netherlands registered vessel that left Belize last night enroute to Santo Tomas in Guatemala. It should have been there by now but while leaving Belize it ran into bad weather and ran aground. 7NEWS travelled 32 miles from the city to the accident site and tonight we’ll show you the ship and underwater footage of the damage it did as it tore through Belize’s reef.

Keith Swift Reporting,
We found the Westerhaven cargo ship where it has been since last night – stuck on the reef 32 miles from Belize City in an area near Caye Glory. It ran aground on the reef while sailing out of Belize enroute to Guatemala. This afternoon we met the coast guard on site with an assessment team.

Direl Garrido, Coast Guard
“We were called out to assist the DOE and an assessment team to come and check the vessel that grounded here.”

Keith Swift,
Have you been on the boat?

Direl Garrido,
“No, no.”

Keith Swift,
Have you spoken to anyone who has been on the boat?

Direl Garrido,
“No sir, nothing. All the information we get from our headquarters.”

Keith Swift,
So it is lodged on the reef?

Direl Garrido,
“It is aground on the reef, yes.”

Keith Swift,
Do you know what efforts are being made to move it?

Direl Garrido,
“Right now the assessment team is just conducting an assessment and then based on the result then they will make a decision.”

As the footage shows- it is a large vessel – estimated to be about 100 meters long. A massive ship and it did extensive damage. Marine scientist Melanie McField accompanied us on the boat to the accident site and she says a large area of pristine reef has been destroyed. This is underwater footage she shot with her camera. She says it is the worst reef accident she has ever seen.

Melanie McField, Marine Scientist
“This is by far the worst I have ever seen. I’ve never seen anything like this. It is unbelievable. I even saw blast fishing in Indonesia and this looks much worse because it is the whole area.

The reef has been completely levelled, basically from the stern to after the boat. It seems as if the boat just came in on top of, you know the reef has these spurs, it is like hills of corals, valleys of sand, and all the hills of corals have just been scraped clean, levelled. I have never seen anything like it; usually damage is a little bit spotty. And down there near the front of the boat there are areas where big coral heads are knocked over but here in the middle, the whole think is flattened, actually levelled like a parking lot.”

Keith Swift,
And what is the size of the area we’re talking about?

Melanie McField,
“Well it is basically it is the length of the boat, maybe a little bit less. The two ends aren’t quite as bad. The length of the boat and then out to at least this point where we are here so that’s bigger than a football field.”

And as bad as it is – McField the damage has been done and it should be easily moved.

Melanie McField,
“There are a few places where it actually pushed into the reef, the spurs as you get towards the reef crest there are a little bit lower but the boat is just pushed on to about two of them so I don’t think they are going to have a lot of trouble getting it off because as you pull it out there is nothing to block the path, all the coral is gone so it should be fairly easy to take it off. It is in a weird position because it is sideways to the current but I don’t think it will be too bad. All of this is levelled so they are not going to hurt much if they pull it off this way.”

Keith Swift,
How far is this from the channel?

Melanie McField,
“Well they came out the English Caye channel. I don’t know what the legal distance is offshore that they are supposed to travel but they shouldn’t have been travelling anywhere close to the reef crest, especially at night and they should have known where that was with their GPS equipment.”

The ship’s owner – who we are told is on his way to Belize – will be more than likely be fined but McField says no dollar amount can measure the damage.

Melanie McField,
“Each square meter of reef is worth something like US$2,000. I haven’t calculated yet but we’ll get out the numbers and it is a lot of square meters that is damaged here and so there should be a considerable fine.”

Keith Swift,
What will be the effect on the wider reef system?

Melanie McField,
“Well the rest of the reef system, there is some sedimentation coming off of the pulverized reef but that’s pretty negligible. The main thing is that we’ve lost some important habitat. This is really healthy reef. We don’t have a lot of healthy reef, the eco-system report card that we came out with earlier this year was pretty bleak; most of our reef is in poor condition. But this particular chunk of reef is pretty healthy.

This is not the first time it has happened. There was the grounding of a cargo ship back in late November and I think we really need to be tough on our regulations and with Coast Guard, Port Authority, Fisheries, and DOE and get everyone to really come down on these ships. I don’t understand why this is happening.”

The assessment team was still onboard the ship when we left. The ship’s agent in Belize is Eurocaribe Shipping. As we mentioned it was bound for Guatemala and had stopped in Belize for only 4 hours to drop off a few containers. It is registered in the Netherlands and the captain was Fritz Schroeder. It is of note that this is only Schroeder’s 3rd trip as the captain of the Westerhaven to Belize. The owner is on his way to Belize. Tomorrow he is expected to hire a salvage company to tow the ship off the reef.

On a final note – if we use Melanie McField’s math – the ship damaged 10,000 meters of reef which would amount to US$20 million. McField is a marine research scientist with 18 years experience.

Channel 7

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#318900 - 01/16/09 03:09 PM Re: Ship aground? [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
Westerhaven Still Lodged on the Reef

Tonight, the Westerhaven cargo ship remains grounded on the Belize barrier reef 32 miles from Belize City in an area near Caye Glory. Continuing rough seas have prevented the Department of Environment from making an official assessment of the damages, but reef expert Melanie McField who accompanied 7NEWS to the scene yesterday on swollen seas has says the ship damaged 10,000 meters of reef which amounts to a dollar figure of twenty million us dollars. Today, Chief Environmental Officer Martin Allegria told us that information received so far suggests that the ship was on autopilot when it veered off course.
Martin Allegria, Chief Environmental Officer
“Preliminary from my officers are that it was on autopilot apparently but even if a vessel is on autopilot, I mean you have to have some sort of safety mechanism; a person on watch should in case it goes out of the established route. Machines can go wrong sometimes. At this stage, at this specific point in time Jules it is difficult for me to tell you what the valuation is at this point in time. Why? Because we haven’t been able to get underneath or under the sea to see what and where this boat is specifically grounded on. The current legislation under section 29 of the Environmental Protection Act, it basically establishes a maximum of $200,000 for damage to the environment. However with assistance from the Port and other agencies, a case of that damage to the reef for example in this case proves to be due to negligence, wanton disregard, carelessness, that type of thing – of the captain in this case – the same legislation provides for us to be able to charge in the courts on those infractors three times the value of the damage.”
And while it passed without any publicity, about a month ago, another cargo vessel got stuck on the reef. The damages for that are not finalized but they are believed to be in the same range as this one – above ten million us dollars.

Channel 7

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#318906 - 01/16/09 03:18 PM Re: Ship aground? [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
Major damage to reef caused by Westerhaven
The Cargo ship Westerhaven has been lying atop the barrier reef near Southern Long Caye, about thirty-two miles from Belize City for the past forty-eight hours. The ship left Belize City after eight Tuesday night after dropping off a few containers and the damage to the reef is considerable. According to Ports Commissioner Major Lloyd Jones, the information they have received so far reveals that at ten p.m. the pilot disembarked at English Caye and then the Ship Master plotted a course on a heading of one hundred and seventy degrees. The autopilot was then engaged and about thirty minutes later the ship ran aground onto the reef. And that is the source of controversy. The course heading a hundred and seventy degrees should have taken the ship at least one point one to one point two miles away from the reef. So how did the ship end up on top of Belize’s precious reef system? Well that is the question that the ports commissioner will attempt to answer as soon as the investigation gets underway. He has said that there were no emergencies reported aboard the ship at the time of the incident. If the name of the cargo ship sounds familiar that’s because it has been in the news before. On October 2008, hazardous material from a barrel in a container consigned to Belize Natural Energy was leaking. That situation was contained and there were no damages to Belizean waters. Melanie McField, Marine Scientist and reef expert, told News Five about the damage to a portion of Belize’s Barrier Reef.

Melanie McField, Marine Scientist
“The ship is about a hundred and twenty meters long and it was heading in a southerly direction. It had come out the channel of English Caye and was going between the barrier reef and Turneff going towards Guatemala. For some reason they were traveling rather close to the reef and then bad weather pushed them even further in and the boat went parallel to the reef crust and just pushed the slope of the reef which is where we had these nice spur and grove formations; hills of coral and valleys of sand. The boat, just as it got shallower, scraped up the slope and flattened everything. So the whole reef, the structure; everything, not just individual coral heads, the whole structure is pulverized. It looks like a steam roller ran over it. It’s really amazing, I’ve never seen anything so big. It’s the size of a football field and maybe wider. So it’s a large area that’s completely flattened.”

“The whole reef structure itself is thousands of years. Yeah, that kind of grove takes thousands of years. A coral head—a large coral head—would be like three hundred years old or something but the reef structure itself is built on many different coral heads that grow and die and others grow on top of them and it builds up over time. So it’s not just coral itself, one animal is lost; it’s the whole structure. It’s like all the ancestors that it’s built on got lost.”

Jose Sanchez
“Looking at the video, the way the ship—not your area of expertise—but the way the ship actually went in from what you saw on the video, did it look like ship just crashed into our reef?”

Melanie McField
“No, that was what was unusual; it didn’t go straight into the reef. So it wasn’t like the bow crashing up the slope and usually the damage would be the width of the ship. That would be the area of damage if it went straight up onto the slope. But in this case, it looked like it was brushed up the side. So it was the full length of the boat and that’s why there's so much damage. The full length of the boat got pushed up the slope and flattened everything so that made it a wider field of damage.”

Ports Commissioner Lloyd Jones says that his team, along with the Department of the Environment and the Fisheries Department, have been at the site. However, the official inquiry as mandated by the Harbors and Merchant Shipping Act will take place once the vessel is removed from the reef. Two salvage experts were brought in from the U.S. to assess the situation. They have said that the ship is re-floatable and are negotiating with the owner to get the contract to remove the Westerhaven. If the details are worked out they will return on Sunday with a tug boat from the US to refloat the vessel. Once that is completed, the Ports Commissioner says that the Westerhaven will be returned to the Belize Ports Authority for their inquiry.

Channel 5

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#318961 - 01/16/09 09:01 PM Re: Ship aground? [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

The Westerhaven cargo ship remains grounded on the Belize barrier reef 32 miles from Belize City in an area near Caye Glory. Continuing rough seas have prevented the Department of Environment from making an official assessment of the damages, but reef expert Melanie McField who accompanied our asspciates 7NEWS to the scene yesterday on swollen seas has says the ship damaged 10,000 meters of reef which amounts to a dollar figure of twenty million us dollars. Today, Chief Environmental Officer Martin Allegria told us that information received so far suggests that the ship was on autopilot when it veered off course. Martin Alegria, Chief Environment Officer (DOE)
Martin Allegria, Chief Environmental Officer“Preliminary from my officers are that it was on autopilot apparently but even if a vessel is on autopilot, I mean you have to have some sort of safety mechanism; a person on watch should in case it goes out of the established route. Machines can go wrong sometimes. At this stage, at this specific point in time Jules it is difficult for me to tell you what the valuation is at this point in time. Why? Because we haven’t been able to get underneath or under the sea to see what and where this boat is specifically grounded on. The current legislation under section 29 of the Environmental Protection Act, it basically establishes a maximum of $200,000 for damage to the environment. However with assistance from the Port and other agencies, a case of that damage to the reef for example in this case proves to be due to negligence, wanton disregard, carelessness, that type of thing – of the captain in this case – the same legislation provides for us to be able to charge in the courts on those infractors three times the value of the damage.”

And while it passed without any publicity, about a month ago, another cargo vessel got stuck on the reef. The damages for that are not finalized but they are believed to be in the same range as this one – above ten million us dollars.

Martin Alegria, Chief Environment Officer (DOE)

posted by the san pedro sun

===============
By Harry Lawrence - Publisher, the Reporter
Grounding of the cargo freighter Westerhaven of the Seaboard Line on a reef off Caye Glory on Tuesday night may not have been due to carelessness.
These containerships are notoriously hard to handle when the winds are blowing above 30 knots.
Even moderately heavy winds can blow these ships off-course, especially in confined waters where there is little room to maneuver. It is astonishing how the wind will push one of these heavy container ships, when the ship is not under full steam.
This is not to suggest that the shipping line is off the hook or that Belize will not demand full compensation for the damage caused to the reef.
Belize has a responsibility to protect the sections of reef which are under our care because they are part of a regional eco-system, an international asset which many countries share.
A few years ago there was a similar accident at sea when another freighter beached itself on the reef. It took torches to cut the steel hull into pieces and tugs to remove the remains, and despite cries of local protest, the government of the day did nothing to hold the shipping parties responsible for the damage.
See also Report card rates reef as “poor”; Environmental management urgently needed <http://www.reporter.bz/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=3294&Itemid=2>
It is possible that there was an under-the-table settlement. Such things happened frequently, as was the case with the Special Share of Belize Telecommunications Limited, sold to Mr. Jeffrey Prosser.
Prime Minister Said Musa swears to this day that he sold the Special Share for its book value of one dollar. A spokesman for Jeffrey Prosser on the other hand has told this newspaper that Mr. Prosser paid much more than one dollar.
But he won’t say how much more.
This is understandable. If Mr. Prosser were to admit that he paid money under the table to get control of BTL he could possibly go to jail! He could go to jail because Mr. Prosser is an American and he is bound by the laws that govern the United States.
In Belize it is much easier for a Prime Minister and even lesser ministers to get away with corrupt deeds, and the evidence shows they have done so with immense damage to the economy during the last five years.
This is why the media, the print media in particular, has a duty to be vigilant and forthright in reporting these things.
The beaching of the freighter Westerhaven may not be anybody’s fault, but somebody’s gotta pay.

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#319076 - 01/17/09 06:58 PM Re: Ship aground? [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
Government agencies to sue for US$15 million for reef damage

The full extent of the damage caused when a cargo vessel went aground has been described as one of the worst ever to our reefs, the longest living in the world. And while varying figures on damages have been thrown around, the Ports Commissioner has confirmed that the Port will be suing the ship owners for $15 million, U.S. that is, for damages caused to the reefs due to negligence of the operators of the [Netherlands-registered] Westerhaven. Jose Sanchez reports.

Jose Sanchez, Reporting
Since the Westerhaven ran aground about 15 miles northeast of Dangriga on Tuesday night, several agencies including the Belize Ports Authority, the Department of Environment and the Fisheries Department have been coordinating their efforts to assess environmental damages as well as legal ones. Melanie McField, the marine scientist who recorded the damage firsthand with her underwater camera, believes that legislation specific to reefs needs to be established.

Melanie McField, Marine Scientist
“I think we need something specific for this like a Coral Reef Protection Act. We don’t have something really specific to the reef. In the Fisheries Act there is a clause that says we will not take, buy or sell any coral without a permit and that’s why the black coral harvesters get a permit. And they can try to use that; we can try to assess how many corals were damaged by looking at the size of the area and how many living coral animals are in an equivalent size just next to it so we could estimate how many corals were damaged. But the fine is really low. If we use that case, it would be like $500 a coral and that’s just crazy. So the other way of doing it is just the habitat loss and that’s under the Environmental Protection Act. And showing that there was negligence, which clearly there was negligence in not following your — in my opinion it’s navigation equipment we have now, someone should have been watching the equipment and they would have known they were getting close to the reef. That’s why I can’t understand if the boat was being monitored by the crew, I don’t understand how it could run onto the reef like that.”

Beverly Wade, Fisheries Administrator
“Currently, my staff is out there at one of the spawning aggregation sites — that’s a reserve — doing our annual monitoring. Unfortunately, this grounding is 500 feet from that site, so it is a sensitive area for us. They were out there and we got some preliminary reports from them.”

Jose Sanchez
“Safe to say it doesn’t look good?”

Beverly Wade
“No, it doesn’t. I must agree with Dr. McField … its’ the worst grounding that we have seen in Belize, well, that I have seen in my professional tenure. It really doesn’t look good and it’s a highly sensitive area, as I said before. It’s an area where there is spawning aggregation and it’s an area where there are healthy reefs in that area."

The Department of Environment says it does not understand how this incident occurred. That is why they have sought technical assistance from their sister agency, the Fisheries Department.

Beverly Wade
“The Fisheries Department’s role is primarily to provide technical assistance to the Department of Environment. We have a cadre of well trained individuals who will now go about doing the assessment for the Department of the Environment and we are hopeful that we could carry that out early next week. We had planned to go out there this week but unfortunately, the weather has prevented us from doing so. So we’re basically going out there next week and we’re going to carry out a full assessment of the damaged area so that we could now present that report to the Department of the Environment and they could then inform their process of formalizing what the damages are and to inform their charges.”

Melanie McField
“It’s about 100 meters long, little bit less that the width. So if you say 100 times 2,000, that’s $20 million.”

That rough estimate given two days ago by McField is close to the US$15 million in damages that the Ports Authority is currently filing for damages in the courts.

Major Lloyd Jones, Ports Commissioner, BPA
“The preliminary assessment has been done by the Department of Environment. I have spoken only a couple hours ago with Mr. Algeria and he has given me something in writing which says that from his preliminary assessment, the damage is estimated at a little over US$15 million. Our attorney has been instructed to commence legal action. We have filed an action in rem [determines the respective rights to property that has been brought before the court] in the Supreme Court and we’ve asked the Supreme Court for a warrant to arrest the ship. I believe that that has been filed by our attorney sometime before 3:00 p.m. today. I’m awaiting word from them as to how that went, but we foresee no problem in getting that Arrest Warrant.”

“The master was alone on the bridge at the time of the grounding, which is absolutely unacceptable. It flies in the face of accepted norms of safe navigation and we intend to pursue that matter. He alleges that he engaged the autopilot and we are wondering if that is the case, why did the alarm not sound when the autopilot diverted from its intended course or if it sounded, why didn’t anybody hear that alarm. I’m of the view that is certainly something that could have been prevented if only the crew had stuck to international norms with respect to with safety of navigation. If you were to look at the chart, there is absolutely no reason why that ship should have gone aground, absolutely none other than, like I said, inattentiveness or carelessness on the part of the crew. It is wide open waters, there are no navigational hazards other than the Barrier Reef on both sides, but you have clear open water for miles. So any mariner that is competent in navigation should have been able to navigate that area safely.”

The ship won’t be on the reef for much longer. A U.S. based team with tugboats is on its way to dislodge the Westerhaven from the reef on Monday. The ports commissioner says the ship will be impounded with its cargo. Our news team will accompany the agencies to see how it unfolds. Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.

The current plight of the Westerhaven has raised many questions about maritime laws. There is a particular one that environmentalists keep asking. That is ... do the laws of Belize specify what distance a ship must keep from the reef when chartering through our waters? That is what News Five’s Jose Sanchez asked Ports Commissioner Major Lloyd Jones today.

Major Lloyd Jones, Ports Commissioner, B.P.A.
“Currently for a foreign vessel to visit Belize they need to file what is called a Notice of Arrival for the Port Authority. That tells us that the vessel is coming in. Belize is compulsory pilotage waters. In the case of a vessel coming to Belize City, that vessel would take on a pilot just outside of English Caye and that pilot brings it in and takes it out. That was done and thereafter the pilot disembarked and the Master then was left to do the southern transit on his own. That has been going on, as I far as I know, for many, many years and unless there are particular hazards, then the pilot would then disembark.”

“Currently, the law does not specify what distance you have to stay clear of our Barrier Reef and so on and certainly that is one of the things that we believe, in discussing with the stakeholders, that we might want to implement. It is called internationally as a ship routing system so that we say, as a matter of law, that if you enter Belize just for the sake of argument, you cannot navigate anywhere within 2 miles, 3 miles, whatever it is that would be recommended unless, of course, you’re entering port. That would then require ships to stay clear of a particular area. But even if we were to have that legislation, the responsibility to ensure that you don’t go within that area still rests with the crew and I think that is where were they are having some fundamental issues and I think that is something that we will certainly have to address.”

Channel 5

==========
Westerhaven runs aground on Belize Barrier Reef

Marine scientist calls it “worst accident she has ever seen”

Chief Environmental Officer reports increase in ship groundings; “This situation is getting out of hand”

A Netherlands-registered cargo ship and her crew are not going anywhere, at least not today, after running aground on a section of the Belize Barrier Reef, reportedly causing about $40 million dollars worth of damage to the reef.

The ship was on its way from Belize City to a port in Guatemala Tuesday night when bad weather reportedly forced them aground on a section of the reef, estimated coordinates 17 degrees, 5 minutes and 1 second North latitude, 87 degrees, 59 minutes and 4 seconds West longitude, off Caye Glory.

The point of grounding is 32 miles southeast of Belize City, 15 miles south of English Caye and just east of the southern end of Southern Long Caye, just inside the reef.

Early estimates are that the Westerhaven, which had stopped off in Belize to deliver general merchandise for Sea Borne Marine of Houston, Texas, U.S.A., and was headed for Santo Tomas, Guatemala, leveled a section of “healthy” coral reef some 100 meters long by 100 meters wide (119.6 square yards long by 119.6 square yards wide), destroying a total estimated area of over 10,000 square meters (approximately 11,959.9 square yards). Full measurements will come tomorrow.

The general cargo ship is about 100 meters (328 feet) long and carries gross tonnage of 7,590 tons – a massive ship by any stretch of the imagination.

Scheepvaart Maatschappij Westerhaven B.V., a private limited liability Netherlands-based company, owns the ship and Belize’s Eurocaribe Shipping Services is the local agent. Reider Shipping, another Netherlands-based company, manages the ship, which was built in 2000.

A Eurocaribe spokesperson told us today that the owner of the ship was scheduled to arrive in Belize this afternoon to oversee the assessment of damages to the reef, and hopefully to hire a towing company to release the ship from its current position. Amandala was later told that flight delays would make it impossible for him to come today.

The ship is captained by one Fritz Schroeder and has a crew of fifteen.

According to Chief Environmental Officer Martin Alegria, there has been a recent increase in the number of ships running aground on the reef, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest reef of its kind in the Western Hemisphere (second largest in the world behind Australia’s Great Barrier Reef), over the last three years.

In fact, Alegria told us, a ship ran aground on the reef elsewhere in Belize just two months ago. That case is scheduled to go to court.

Alegria told us that the Environmental Protection Act, Cap. 328 of the Laws of Belize, makes provision for criminal charges against those who destroy Belize’s environmental treasures such as the Barrier Reef, which protects Belize’s coastline from the more damaging effects of hurricanes, offers a sanctuary for marine life and contributes heavily to Belize’s tourism product.

The Act, in Section 29, stipulates a fine of up to $200,000, or three times the monetary value of the damaged area, whichever is greater. Alegria says that in order for the latter fine to be enforced, the Port Authority, which has jurisdiction to prosecute these types of cases, must prove that the ship’s navigators were either negligent, or intentionally or recklessly caused the destruction of the reef. We quote the relevant paragraph from that section of the law below.

“Every person who- (a) intentionally or recklessly causes a disaster that results in a loss of the use of the environment; or (b) shows wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons and thereby causes a risk of death or harm to another person, commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not less than twenty-five thousand dollars and not exceeding two hundred thousand dollars, or, in the case of a conviction under paragraph (a), to three times the assessed value of the damage caused, whichever is the greater, or to imprisonment for a term of not less than two years and not exceeding ten years, or to both the fine (or the assessed value of the damage), and the term of imprisonment.” (Emphasis ours.)

Alegria expects that there will be criminal charges laid, but warns that many similar cases have been settled out of court, and that the Westerhaven’s owners can pursue this route. Already, information to Amandala first reported by Commissioner of Ports Major Lloyd Jones, who reportedly had received it from the Port Authority’s investigators on scene, and acknowledged, but not confirmed by Alegria and McField tonight, is that the ship’s captain is claiming that the vessel was on autopilot when she struck the reef – but that no one was keeping an eye on things. Amandala was unable to reach Jones at press time to confirm this.

As for getting the ship off the reef, Alegria said that the weather was not currently conducive to doing much more than taking photos of the ship above ground. Forecasts call for extensive rain for the coast over the next few days.

Renowned Belizean marine scientist Melanie McField recorded underwater images of the extent of the damage Wednesday afternoon.

McField reported: “This is by far the worst I have ever seen. I’ve never seen anything like this. It is unbelievable… The reef has been completely leveled, basically from the stern to (the aft of) the boat.”

She said that most of the damaged area was considered one of the few healthy areas in Belize’s much-abused reef system, and that some important habitat had been lost. The ship’s navigators and captains have no excuse: if they had checked their instruments they would have seen that they were too close to the Reef and maybe avoided damaging it, she told us.

McField estimates that up to US $20 million (BZ$40 million) in damage to the reef was caused by Wednesday’s grounding, based on an internationally accepted average of US$2,000 per square meter, she told us this afternoon.

Similar incidents took place in June of 2001 (when the Hybur Line’s Atlantis ran aground on English Caye) and in January of 2005 (when the Transfer rammed into Lighthouse Reef). In both cases, those ships took months to be removed.

Latest word is that a team from the Fisheries Department, Department of the Environment and the various conservation organizations led by the World Wildlife Fund will visit the site tomorrow, Friday, following up visits by DOE and the national Coast Guard on Wednesday and today.

Amandala

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#319123 - 01/18/09 01:06 AM Re: Ship aground? [Re: Marty]
Peter Jones Offline
Does anyone know how our oil is exported? Do we have big tankers coming into our waters? Because if so, has Belize implemented the international agreement that all of these should be double-skinned? The prospect of a tanker losing its load in our waters doesn't bear thinking about.

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#319128 - 01/18/09 01:46 AM Re: Ship aground? [Re: Peter Jones]
dabunk Offline
The oil is trucked to Big creek where they have built storage tanks. From there it is loaded on tankers for shipment. It has made vehicular traffic hoorrible as well, the tankers fly as fast as possible and you better stay out of their way. I have been very supprised we have not had accidents and spills.

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#319132 - 01/18/09 02:54 AM Re: Ship aground? [Re: dabunk]
SP Daily Offline
"tankers"= tank trucks...right???

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Chaa Creek is an award-winning luxury Belize Resort, rated as one of the worlds best Eco Lodges. We are a pioneer in adventure travel to Belize since 1981!
White Sands Dive Shop - 5 Star PADI Dive Facility - Daily diving, SCUBA instruction and Snorkeling
Caribbean Inspired All Natural Condiments & Spice Blends, Over 100 are Gluten Free!
We manage a variety of homes, apartments, condos and commercial properties here on Ambergris Caye. Our minimum lease on ALL properties is six months.
Conch Shell Inn: All rooms are right on the beach in the heart of San Pedro, so within walking distance to anything and everything!!
Lil’ Alphonse has snorkel equipment to fit anyone as well as Marine Park Tickets and flotation devices to assist those not as experienced.
Coastal Xpress offers a daily scheduled ferry run to most resorts, restaurants and private piers on the island of Anbergris Caye. We also offer  private and charter water taxi service.
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Cayo Espanto
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Click for exciting and adventurous tours of Belize with Katie Valk!
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