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#364633 - 01/20/10 09:19 AM Luxury Yacht Lodged on Barrier Reef  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 57,000
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

An 85 foot luxury yacht – “The Great Escape” is tonight lodged on Belize’s barrier reef near Hunting Caye. It has been there since November 30th of last year when it’s captain and owner – American national Albert Barscroft ran aground on a portion of the reef in the Sapodilla and Hunting Caye Range while exiting Belizean territorial waters.

What’s news tonight is that the yacht is falling apart and it needs to be removed to avoid an environmental catastrophe. The yacht is loaded with fuel and after being lodged on the reef for 6 weeks – the Department of Environment fears that it is beginning to break. The vessel hasn’t been removed because according to the DOE, the yacht’s owner allegedly paid Jorge Alfredo Aldana US$10,000 to remove but he didn’t. Aldana allegedly wanted another US$60,000 to remove it.

So now it is in the hands of the Department of Environment which we are told is trying to gather the necessary funds – reportedly between $30,000 and $50,000 to pay to have it ship pulled off the reef. The owner will then reimburse the DOE.

The yacht’s owner Albert Barscroft is not in the country because after he was detained by the Coast Guard after the yacht ran aground, he had a heart attack and was rushed to Guatemala for treatment. He has yet to return.

Because the vessel is still lodged on the reef, the Department of Environment has been unable to assess the damage to the reef. The Port Authority is however still investigating the cause of the accident. We are told that the evidence so far suggests that the accident was a result of negligence.

Channel 7

Jan 21, 2010 - 2 months after grounding; the Great Escape still lodged at the reef

great escape vesselOn November thirtieth another vessel was added to the cadre of foreign vessels that have navigated into the reef. The Great Escape an eighty-five foot luxury yacht, like its predecessors the Westerhaven and the Azteca, has crashed on Belize’s priceless barrier reef. All accounts say that the yacht’s owner did not check in with any authorities as is prescribed when they enter Belizean waters, and the vessel appeared to be leaving when it ran smack into the reef. Three government arms, the Coastguard, the Fisheries Department, and the Department of Environment have been working on the case. The expensive vessel has the best navigational instruments and the incident has the appearance of human error. But why is it still lodged on the reef tonight? A News Five crew of reporter Jose Sanchez and cameraman Christopher Mangar joined the Fisheries Department as it examined the Great Escape.

Jose Sanchez, Reporting

Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve was established in1996. It is the southernmost part of the Belize Barrier Reef World Heritage Site. Unlike the previous vessels that have come before, two months after running aground, a luxury yacht is still wreaking havoc on the corals. After the Coastguard received the distress call, the Manager of the reserve assisted in the rescue of the yacht passengers.

Dennis Garbutt

Dennis Garbutt

Dennis Garbutt, Manager Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve

“Myself with the Fisheries vessel and some of the Coast Guard members then came back out to assist the people because we had radio contact with them and were talking with them. They had two ladies on board. They were mostly older people and quite a bit of pets; cats and dogs and things like that. We were basically going back to take off a couple of the people who wanted to come off the boat and didn’t want to spend the night on it. They had Mr. Al, the captain of the boat at the time, the owner of the vessel; he reported that he has some heart problem so he would prefer to be ashore so we escorted them ashore. Probably about one-thirty the following day on the first of December, the Port Authority along with DOE came by along with two Coast Guard personnel and interviewed Mr. Al. We escorted him back to the ship where they did an inspection.”

The yacht which is registered in the British Virgin Islands is ironically named The Great Escape. The Marine Protected Areas Coordinator for the Fisheries Department was on site today to examine the damage done to the reef.

Isais Majil, Marine Protected Areas Coordinator, Fisheries Department

“We have received reports that the damage area is about one hundred and sixty feet by thirty feet. We have not done a comprehensive assessment to point to which species of coral were damaged and what was the habitat that was in the area. We are here to actually conduct that assessment at this time.”

Jose Sanchez

“Okay, but your assessment cannot be completed until the vessel is moved. Is that correct?”

Isais Majil

“Yeah, to have a very comprehensive and full assessment we need vessel to be removed so that we can actually pinpoint what was underneath and what is being crushed, the different species that actually are there. If that does not happen, what we can do is to do some assessments on both sides of the vessel and extrapolate to see that—well, we kinda picture that what is on the side is the same habitat underneath the vessel.”

But while the vessel continues to pummel the reef as it is hit by outgoing waves, fuel has leaked into the most protected part of the reserve called Conservation Zone One.

Isais Majil

“A very, very pristine area and that’s why it’s given that category of protection. In this area we do not allow any type of extraction, meaning that the fishermen cannot use it. We only allow snorkeling and diving with strict guidelines.”

Jose Sanchez

“Whose responsibility is it to see that the vessel is removed being that the owner is not here?”

Isais Majil

Isais Majil

Isais Majil

“The first call comes for the vessel’s removal and safeguard is from Port Authority. When it comes to the biological assessment then the Department of Environment jumps in and the Fisheries Department also does the biological assessments. Everybody knows there is a decline in coral reef in the region. Belize is no exception so we need to protect what we have and every day we need to protect it more and more.”

Jose Sanchez

“The Fisheries Department can levy charges but you prefer to have the DOE put the charges why is that?”

Isais Majil

“The Fisheries ACT, which we use to create the marine reserves at its creation in 1977, the penalties are very low. So for damage on a marine reserve the most we could charge would be up to a thousand dollars. DOE, having revised their act and having more power to put higher penalties, we work with them so that these penalties can go as high as possible and at the same time we are working that these fines come back to try and restructure the and replenish the areas that are damaged.”

But there is a great escape in the story as the owner of the vessel Albert Barcroft was allowed to leave the country without any charges against him. According to Martin Alegria, Chief Environmental Officer for the D.O.E., they let him go because of his failing health.

Via Phone: Martin Alegria, Chief Environmental Officer, D.O.E.

“Apparently on the way to Placencia when we were bringing them in, the captain

suffered some form of heart problem that became complicated. We didn’t’ want to have a situation on our hands and after he explained to the team that he needed and was scheduled for some heart surgery and stuff like that and he did appear bad. So we did this using our own discretion. We had worked with him and conversed with him on the situation and told him that we were thinking of having him go to Guatemala where he would have attended to the situation before he gets more complicated here and as soon as we have the time to go and remove the boat and do the assessment we would be touching base with him in order for him or his insurance to address the damage caused to the barrier reef.”

Dennis Garbutt

“I personally didn’t witness any heart attack. However, when they took off on the thirtieth of November, they were supposed to take them to Belize City for charges. That would have been the entire crew and everybody that was involved in this incident were basically taken to Belize City for that. However, on the way Mr. Al had a heart attack or a heart condition and they had to take him into Placencia where he received some basic treatment.”

Barcroft is gone but the Department of the Environment is still in contact with his insurance company. A first attempt to remove the vessel by a local contractor has failed. All stakeholders involved agree that it is the world heritage site that needs a great escape from the careless onslaught by foreign vessels.

Jose Sanchez

“The debris from the wreckage is now reaching islands such as Regget Caye. It highlights the importance for the Department of Environment to act quickly. Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.”

The Department of the Environment’s assessment is almost complete, but whether or not Albert Barcroft will be located… that’s another matter.

Channel 5

#365767 - 01/31/10 11:45 AM Re: Luxury Yacht Lodged on Barrier Reef [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 57,000
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

Great Escape Sinks

Tonight 7News has confirmed that the 85 foot luxury yacht – The Great Escape which has been bobbing on the reef near Hunting Caye since it ran aground on November 30th sunk today and only about 2 to 3 feet of the vessel is visible.

The worrying news tonight is that some reports are that the 800 gallons of fuels and 50 gallons of lube is now slowly leaking into the ocean. A team from the port authority and the department of environment rushed to the scene around midday to assess the situation.

Chief Environmental Officer Martin Allegria told us a short while ago that his team on the ground say that even though the vessel has sunken and it is falling apart, the fuel is in a secured container which is still intact. He says they have made arrangements to safely remove the fuel container tomorrow with facilities from the Big Creek Port.

The vessel’s captain and owner Albert Barscroft ran aground on November 30th. He left the country because he had a heart attack and since then the Department of Environment has been trying to raise the necessary funds to move the vessel.

#365770 - 01/31/10 12:34 PM Re: Luxury Yacht Lodged on Barrier Reef [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Mar 2003
Posts: 2,160
Phil Offline
Phil  Offline
I can't believe there is still a drop of fuel left on that boat at over $8,000 just sitting there for two months. Let alone engines, gauges, fittings etc etc.

#365925 - 02/01/10 10:20 PM Re: Luxury Yacht Lodged on Barrier Reef [Re: Phil]  
Joined: Jun 2005
Posts: 2,017
Loansum-Al K Offline
Loansum-Al K  Offline
If there was a concern about fuel spillage, why didn't the coast guard just go aboard and drain the fuel tanks and sell the fuel. It appears the boat was abandoned by the owner. Why wait until the boat sinks to remove the tanks and protect the environment! Seems to me that it would be more cost effective to drain the fuel while it was still floating than to wait until it's under water and have to escavate the tanks.

I'm happier than a pig in s__t...a foot on the sand...and a Belikin in my hand!
#366093 - 02/03/10 08:44 AM Re: Luxury Yacht Lodged on Barrier Reef [Re: Loansum-Al K]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 57,000
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

The task of removing 800 gallons of fuel from the 85 foot luxury yacht – the Great Escape – has been successfully completed. As we’ve been reporting, the yacht ran aground on the reef near Hunting Caye on November 30th. It’s been there since then – waiting to be pulled off the reef. But the situation became urgent late last week when the vessel fell apart and sank.

Personnel from the Port Authority and Department of Environment rushed to the scene on Friday and the removal of the secured container filled with fuel was completed on Saturday. The container of fuel was placed on one of the neighboring cayes.

And while the 800 gallons of fuel is gone, the yacht is still there – “sleeping with the fishes”, so to speak. Chief Environmental Officer Martin Allegria says it is the responsibility of the Port Authority to remove what remains of the luxury yacht. Once it is moved, Allegria says they will be able to conduct a damage assessment to determine the extent of the damage to the barrier reef.

The yacht’s captain and owner American national Albert Barscroft was exiting Belize when he ran aground. He was allowed to leave the country for medical reasons but is required to return. He has been notified in writing that he needs to pay for the removal of the yacht in addition to the damage to the reef.

Channel 7

#374735 - 04/27/10 08:12 AM Re: Luxury Yacht Lodged on Barrier Reef [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 57,000
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

Westerhaven Will Pay

And while that cargo vessel - the NV Caribe - was a real life saver for those fishermen lost at sea – 15 months ago the Westerhaven was a reef-breaker in Belize. On the night of January 13, 2009 the Westerhaven cargo vessel ran aground on the reef near Caye Glory as it was exiting Belizean waters through the English Caye Channel. It damaged 6,000 square meters of pristine reef and according to the Department of Environment it caused $18 million US dollars in damages. The government took the vessel’s owners to court in November and the Chief Justice issued his decision today. Janelle Chanona was at the courtroom where she found that this was more than damage to property; it was the destruction of a living thing.

Deanne Barrow, Attorney General’s Representative,
“It’s no reason to scare off the shipping industry and yet it is a confirmation of the fact that Belize holds the Belize Barrier Reef in high regard.”

Janelle Chanona, Reporting,
“That was an elated Attorney General’s representative this afternoon following the Chief Justice’s decision that the Government of Belize should receive just over 11.5 million Belize dollars in compensation for injury inflicted to the Belize Barrier Reef when the ship, Westerhaven, ran aground on January 13th 2009, east of Caye Glory.”

Deanne Barrow
“ I really appreciate the comments that the Chief Justice made about the importance of the Belize Barrier Reef and that the reef is part of Belize’s national patrimony and can’t be sacrificed to commercial interests.”

Janelle Chanona,
The orders of the CJ are that $11,510,000 plus an interest of 3% per year since January 14th, is to be paid for environmental and ecological loss while nine thousand forty seven dollars are to go jointly to the Coast Guard, Fisheries Department and the Department of the Environment for expenses incurred during immediate response to the grounding. But while the Government is seeing dollar bills, the Westerhaven’s attorneys are foreseeing the possibility of an appeal.

The Westerhaven had accepted liability for the injury to the reef, claiming that under the International Maritime Organization Convention of 1976, there was a limitation on that liability. Belmopan had asked the court to award more than 31 million dollars, but the Westerhaven’s estimates were in the neighbourhood of two million as per the Convention’s Articles. Today the Chief Justice agreed with the Government even though he ended up using his own financial formula to arrive at the eleven point five million dollar award.

Darrell Bradley, Attorney for Westerhaven
“We do think there’s strong merit in saying that the limitation defence did apply in this particular claim.”

Janelle Chanona,
“So that would be the possible ground for an appeal in your eyes?”

Darrell Bradley, Attorney for Westerhaven
“Well that’s really the essential issue in the particular claim. We of course differ with the Chief Justice’s view that this type of loss is something sui generis as he has said. We think that the purpose of the limitation treaty was to encompass all types of claims not withstanding the fact that it related to environmental loss, oil pollution or what have you…once it’s an accident caused as the result of the operation of a ship, that’s covered by the treaty. That’s really what our position was.”

Janelle Chanona,
So what message does the multi-million dollar award send to the International Shipping community?

Major Lloyd Jones, Former Ports Commissioner
“I know that some people from the very first instance when we arrested Westerhaven and then Carib Mariner, some people were trying to imply that the way in which we were conducting ourselves would somehow drive away international shipping, which is absolute nonsense.”

Janelle Chanona,
According to Former Ports Commissioner Major Lloyd Jones, ship captains simply need to conform to professional guidelines and protocols.

Major Lloyd Jones
“In this instance case there was a clear case of negligence. The master conducted himself, in my view, shamelessly. He adhered to absolutely no kind of standards at all. Now in some instances were there is equipment failure for example or weather becomes foul or the aids to navigation, and you heard the Chief Justice mention that he hopes the Government would take some of this money to improve maritime safety. But in the event that the aids to navigation fail, then you couldn’t lay all the blame on the crew. So it all depends on the circumstances but I think that people who show a glaring disregard for professionalism and concern for our environment and navigational safety ought to feel the full weight of the law.”

Janelle Chanona,
Today’s award is the largest in this type of litigation and one hailed by the environmental community.

Melanie McField, Marine Biologist
“I’m so happy to see it come all the way through the court system and to be fairly treated and settled.”

Janelle Chanona,
Reef expert, Dr. Melanie McField, hopes the cash will be used to keep important environmental initiatives afloat.

Melanie McField,
“I think a sizeable proportion of this should go towards restoration of the site, maybe not that site, but restoration efforts in general to other injuries of the reef, management. We have all these marine protected areas that are fully staffed and not managed to their full capacity…I think the fisheries budget was just cut in this new budget. Those types of things could be beefed up using some of this money.”

Janelle Chanona,
As for policy support, the Attorney General’s representative, Deanne Barrow, says legislation was passed in April 2009, which quantifies the injury caused to the reef per square meter.

Deanne Barrow
“It was passed after this one and it was passed after Carib Mariner, the two major grounding events so there has been some response from the legislature…which we have to look at and make sure that act really shore up the position and does what it supposed to do but steps are being taken.”

Janelle Chanona,
According to Barrow, the next step is to call on a guarantee issued to the owners of the Westerhaven. Costs were also awarded to the Government’s representative, to be agreed or taxed. Reporting for 7News, I am Janelle Chanona.

At least one expert report estimated that it will take approximately five hundred years for the Belize Barrier Reef to recover from the grounding of the Westerhaven.

Channel 7

#374736 - 04/27/10 08:14 AM Re: Luxury Yacht Lodged on Barrier Reef [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 57,000
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

CJ says Westerhaven must pay $11,050,000 in damages

westerhavenA ruling in the case of the Westerhaven was delivered today by the Chief Justice, Abdulai Conteh. It is a landmark ruling, indeed the largest amount ever awarded for damages caused to the Barrier Reef. The cargo ship ran aground on the reef about fifteen miles north east of Dangriga back in 2009. Owners of the Westerhaven were accused of negligence since the damage to the corals was extensive. Westerhaven accepted responsibility and the question before the court was how much compensation would have been awarded. The Department of the Environment, the Fisheries Department, the Port Authority and Healthy Reefs Initiative all took part in preparing the case. Estimates conducted by different sources, ranged from two million dollars to thirty million dollars. The CJ today awarded eleven million fifty thousand dollars to the government. News Five’s Jose Sanchez has followed the case ever since the incident was reported.

Jose Sanchez, Reporting

The Westerhaven ran aground on the reef on January thirteenth 2009. The Ship’s Captain Fritz Shcroeder absconded, but the relevant authorities were quick to assess the damage. After a year and four months, the owners of the Westerhaven have been ordered to pay over eleven million dollars. According to Deanne Barrow, the victory came as a result of cooperation by all stakeholders.

Deanne Barrow, Attorney for GOB

“This judgment is the culmination of efforts by several government departments and by the environmental community in Belize. It began with the arrest of the ship by the then Ports Commissioner Major Jones and he did a report on negligence and liability of the captain and as you know, one day before the trial the ship-owners conceded liability and I think it’s as a result of that report by major Jones. Then we had the reports of Keira Foreman, Miguel Alamilla and Kenrick Gordon from the Fisheries Department, the DOE, the Hol Chan Marine Reserve who dived the site and then did a report on the injuries that were sustained in the area and just documenting it.”

The defense’s strategy relied heavily on a 1976 treaty which would have limited any liability to two million dollars. But in addition to the eleven million, the judge also granted a three percent rate of interest per annum from the date of the grounding.

Darell Bradley, Attorney for the Westerhaven
“It’s $11,050,000 Belize dollars and the chief justice came up with that ruling based on a figure he had ascribed which is $2,000 per square meter.”

Jose Sanchez

“It’s eleven million dollars but it could have been more so how do you see it? Is it a loss? Your clients knew they had to pay.”

Darell Bradley

In terms of the overall case, our issue was never an issue of whether we had to pay. The issue was always the quantum of damage and what amount we had to pay. The chief justice recounted that when the trial was held, we readily acceded to the issue of liability and learned senior counsel Michael Young, conceded the negligence on the part of the ship’s captain. So it was always an issue to the applicability of the treaty and the chief justice said that it was the 1976 treaty that was applied. However, he said that treat does not apply to damages as it relates to environmental damage and reef damage in this case.”

Melanie Mcfield, Marine Biologist,

“I feel relief that the ruling went through and we weren’t constrained by that 1976 limit on liability. That was our main fear that would limit our liability to two million dollars. So that said the settlement amount is not what we hoped for but these are grey areas in terms of how you quantify the damage and this is the largest settlement we’ve ever seen in Belize. I think the fact that we made it all the way through the court system, we brought in experts and everything was done up to speed, the issue that the Chief Justice brought up that I hoped my conservation community and the government would follow up on is to put some legislation in place that would enable the courts to follow the guidelines of the Habitat Equivalency Analysis that was the method used to quantify the injury. The judge felt like he couldn’t apply that because we don’t have the laws in place that would enable that.”

Major Lloyd Jones, Former Ports Commissioner

“I think that in terms of the legislation we are attempting to control or regulate human behavior. And quite honestly, in my view unless there are stiff penalties for those responsible for the safe navigation of the ship, then this kind of thing is likely to occur. I think that people when they come to Belize, they have to recognize they are in a sensitive marine environment and they have to conduct themselves accordingly.”

Jose Sanchez

“I remember when you showed us the charts of the path the Westerhaven should have taken, it could not have been a simple error.”

Major Lloyd Jones

“You’re quite right. I think the board of the Port Authority might besieged of that issue as we speak. But they are looking to see how we could, by legislation, require ships to take certain navigation corridors when they are within certain distances of the barrier reef.”
Darell Bradley

We of course have our own view and we will go back to our clients as it regards as to whether it will push forward with an appeal of this decision.”

Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.

Belize’s Barrier Reef remains on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in Danger since June 2009.

Channel 5

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