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#505147 - 06/12/15 05:16 AM Guatemalan Vessel Grounded On Belize Reef  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 52,988
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline
A Guatemalan Navy Gun Ship has run aground on the reef in Belize's southern waters. The report was received early this morning, and after a three hour boat ride to the site, the Coast Guard officers found this ship near Glover's Reef, where it had run aground.

That's way inside Belizean territorial waters, and like the general public, and it has raised, eyebrows, alarms and the nation's collective blood pressure. After all, what were the Guatemalans doing in Belizean waters, and how did they end up on the reef?

This morning, we spoke to National Security CEO George Lovell, who had received a briefing from the Coast Guard. Here's what he told us:

George Lovell - CEO, Ministry of National Security
"The Coast Guard was informed that there was a vessel on our reef off Glover's reef in the vicinity of Middle Caye. Immediately our Coast Guard officials centered sent out patrols into area to confirm the reports of this grounded vessel which was confirmed that there is a vessel a Guatemalan Coast Guard vessel with markings GC651 on that vessel. When we went to the ground we also observed that there was a second vessel that was in close proximity to where this vessel went aground and we were then concerned. we got in touch with Ministry of Foreign Affairs who in turn got in touch with our Guatemala counterparts and they informed us that the vessels where destined to go to La Isla Mujeres in Mexico. Our Coast Guard that were on the ground had an opportunity to speak to the crew of the Guatemalan Coast Guard vessel and they confirmed that yes they were heading to Mexico. They claimed that they had lost steering and that they drifted unto the reef."

"Is there a reason why they were passing through our territorial waters as oppose to international seas?"

George Lovell - CEO, Ministry of National Security
"My understanding according to them is that they were within the international waters. There's a 12 mile limit and they were in the international waters when they experienced difficulties and they drifted into our reef."

But, viewers may remember that 3 months ago, the Guatemalan military detained 36 persons who were on a trip organized by the Northern Territorial Volunteers. They were going to the Gracias A Dios border marker, and according to the Guatemalans, these Belizeans ventured into a tributary of the Sarstoon River which is in their territory. They were then detained and taken to Livingston, Guatemala.

So, what will be the response from the Belizean Government in this incident, since it is clear that they are in Belizean waters? The CEO told us that the perspective of the authorities is that it would be unwise to have a knee-jerk reaction to jail them as a sort of an eye for an eye:

George Lovell - CEO, Ministry of National Security
"As we speak, we are putting together a task force that will be deployed out into the area and the task force will be made up of all the relevant agencies that normally deals with these type of groundings. Based on any certification that they give to us in terms of what they experience out on the ground, claims will obviously have to be made for damages against the Guatemalan Coast Guard and the Guatemalan Government."

"How does that work in the light of ongoing dispute between both countries? The territorial dispute between Belize and Guatemala."

George Lovell - CEO, Ministry of National Security
"This is the first and for me to say how it works we will just see and time will tell, but we will make a claim just like we will make whenever there is any damage to our reef."

"How are you treating this concerning the fact that there have been multiple reports of Guatemalans entering our territorial waters? This times it's their Coast Guard running around damaging our reef. One: there's 2 implication that the emotional feeling that this will trigger off with Belizeans and, two: what are we doing with those officers of the Guatemalan counterparts? Have we detain them because we know just several some of misunderstanding our Belizeans were detained. What are we doing?"

George Lovell - CEO, Ministry of National Security
"There are several things that we are doing. First of all we have to establish precisely what happened on the ground. We know that they have claimed to have been going to Mexico and so we have our officials confirming that that is in fact so. I can tell you that the initial report that I received from my Coast Guard is that the Mexican confirmed that the Guatemalans had a port call and they confirmed that the manifest that they have speaks to the people that were on this vessel that went grounded on our reef. So, it would appear that it was a legitimate passage. Now, the circumstances will only be clearer when our task force goes out there and do the relevant investigations. As it relates to the question of detaining the officials, we want to ensure that we do an investigation which is above board and we're not going to try and use the opportunity to say you have incurred and just arrest people. There is a mutual understanding that we have in matters like these and we will address it at the highest level."

The Belizean military has pointed out to us that the Guatemalans have the "right of innocent passage" into Belizean waters or "Navigational Right of Transit". Those rights are afforded to them under the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas, to which Belize is a signatory. As this documents shows, they were on the way to La Isla Mujer in Mexico. The Mexicans have reportedly confirmed this.

Right now, our news team is on Glover's reef with a multi-Government agency taskforce which has been dispatched to investigate the incident and the damage to the reef if there is any. They could;t make it back in time and had to spend the night there, but we'll have the full story for you in tomorrow's newscast.

Channel 7

Guat gunboat runs onto Glovers Reef

Just before midnight last night, Wednesday, the loud revving of a heavy engine overwhelmed the sound of the hard rains on Glovers Reef and shortly after the noise of the engine, a crashing sound alerted the park rangers and Fisheries Department staff who are stationed on the island that something had happened about 500 yards from where they are housed.

Following the crashing sound, powerful spotlights came from the direction of the reef, where a Guatemalan Navy boat had become beached. Frantic calls were made from Glovers Reef to the Belize Coast Guard, as another Guatemalan gunboat was observed in the immediate vicinity.

With the arrival of daylight, the large Guatemalan gunboat, with its heavy 105mm gun, could be seen parked on top of the reef.

The news of the Guatemalan Navy boat crashing onto Glovers Reef began making the rounds early this morning on social media.

Almost 24 hours after the incident that Belize Coast Guard Commander Elton Bennett today has characterized as an “accident,” the official channels of the relevant government ministries — Foreign Affairs, National Security, and the Department of the Environment, have not put out a press statement to reassure Belizeans that there is nothing sinister about the landing of the Guatemalan gunboat on top of our reef, and that the Republic of Guatemala will be held responsible for compensation for whatever damage their military vessel has caused to the reef.

Commander Bennett, who was deployed from Coast Guard Headquarters in Belize City, arrived at the scene at the first light of dawn.

Bennett told reporters this afternoon that when he arrived, he communicated with the Guatemalan captain of the vessel GC621 via a radio call, and after that initial communication, he determined that it was safe for him to board the vessel and take command of the situation.

The GC621, a 70-foot vessel on which 21 Guatemalan Navy cadets were travelling from Puerto Barrios, Guatemala, to Isla Mujeres, Mexico, was accompanied by another similar Guatemalan Navy vessel. After the accident, the other Guatemalan gunboat remained outside the reef, but apparently still inside Belize’s territorial waters.

Bennett confirmed with his Mexican counterparts that they were indeed expecting the two Guatemalan vessels.

In the early afternoon hours, a Belize Defence Force Air Wing Defender aircraft, a dubious name for an unarmed aircraft, could be seen making wide circles in the area above where the gunboat lay perched atop the reef.

Docked at the pier were two Boston Whalers, Belize Coast Guard vessels, but their tripods, designed for 50-caliber machine guns, the heaviest weapon in their arsenal, were empty. A number of Coast Guard personnel were on the island, however, with their various assault rifles.

A third Guatemalan Navy boat, a Columbian type vessel, was also observed in the vicinity of the grounded boat.

Bennett, who was onboard the Guatemalan navy boat and had to wade through water to meet with reporters, said that he was awaiting the arrival of a multi-agency team so that they could do an initial dive to determine what damage was done to the reef.

There are, however, conflicting reports of how the boat landed on the reef. The Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of National Security, Col. George Lovell, (Ret.d), said early this morning that the boat experienced a propulsion problem. That does not square with the noise coming from the boat engine that those who are on the island heard.

Then Commander Bennett said that the Guatemalan captain told him that he had had steering problems.

Amandala sought clarity on these two differing explanations from Major Lloyd Jones, who was the Commanding Officer of the Belize Defence Force Maritime Wing for a number of years.

Major Jones told Amandala, “The pictures I am seeing on the news suggest to me that the vessel was moving forward when it went aground.”

As to the statement that the vessel had steering problems, Major Jones said, “Normally, when a vessel goes aground as a consequence of drifting, it does not go hard aground. The vessel is hard aground, suggesting it was under propulsion; in other words, the man deh drive right onto the reef.”

If it was a steering problem the vessel had, Major Jones said, “They would have had to drift for more than 12 nautical miles, with a rate of drift of less than 1 knot (1 nautical mile per hour), and it would have taken more than 12 hours for them to have run aground on the reef.” “If the vessels were travelling together, why did the good vessel not take the distressed vessel in tow and prevented it from grounding?” he asked.

In response to a question from KREM TV’s Marisol Amaya, as to why he (Bennett) took over six hours before reaching Glovers Reef, Bennett said that the Coast Guard had deployed another vessel from Calabash Caye.

That vessel, however, did not engage in any communication with the Guatemalans. And it was not until day was breaking, when Bennett arrived, that the Coast Guard began communicating with the Guatemalans onboard GC621.

Bennett said that if it is proven that there was negligence on the part of the Guatemalan captain, then he and his men would be detained and they would be dealt with according to the results of the examination that is being conducted by the various agencies involved.

We understand that a diplomatic note about the incident has been sent to the Guatemalan government.


#505178 - 06/13/15 04:28 AM Re: Guatemalan Vessel Grounded On Belize Reef [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 52,988
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

Gunboat Diplomacy

Tonight, a 65 foot Guatemalan Navy Gun Ship named "Tecum Uman" remains on the reef in Belize's southern waters. Well, tonight, it's still there - despite multiple efforts to pull it off. Tonight - we'll tell you all about it and show you the efforts right up until this morning.

But, we begin where the story started. On Wednesday night at around 11:00, two Guatemalan Naval ships - each carrying 12 personnel onboard - were heading to Isla Mujeres, Mexico from Puerto Barrios, Guatemala on a training mission. But on their way, one of the ships had engine and propulsion failure. According to the investigation so far, the failure was due to a leak in the steering hydraulics. One of vessels then crashed into the reef - a quarter mile from Middle Caye in Glovers Reef.

Our news team was out on Middle Caye from yesterday, all through the night until this morning to monitor efforts at getting the ship removed - Courtney Weatherburne has an extensive report from the site.

Courtney Weatherburne reporting
Bags of crystal water, sacks and knapsacks of supplies and equipment were brought out to the Coast Guard vessel yesterday morning - only a few were loaded on the vessel.

After the fuel and gear were onboard, our long journey to Glovers Reef began and he boat swayed unto to open sea at 11:30.

We had to make a scheduled stop at South Water Caye to pick up a Fisheries officer. He was heading out for the onsite assessment.

Then at about 2:30 in the afternoon we arrived at Middle Caye in Glovers Reef. Coast Guard officers were already stationed on the Caye.

Just beyond the island the 64 ton aluminum Guatemalan Naval vessel was perched above the reef.

The path leading to the vessel was too shallow so we had to take a motor boat to get closer to the war ship.

As we approached, we saw Guatemalan and Belizean personnel on board - the Guatemalan flag above - flapping defiantly in the midafternoon breeze.

This is as far as we could go and the Coast Guard Commander came to update us on the investigation so far.

Commander Elton Bennett, Vice Commandant, Coast Guard
"The Fisheries Department called us at about midnight last night. They said that somewhere around 11 o' clock they notice the vessel ran aground. Immediately they started to call the different agencies. We received the call around 12 and we started our plans to deploy a unit from the headquarters and one from Calabash Caye. We arrived before first light this morning and we did our safety patrol in the area. From my initial look around the vessel - I look at the chart that they were using, I could see where they plotted the different points and one of the way points would have been just outside Glover's Reef and that's where they started to drift. They explained they started to drift from there. From what I saw, it could have been in line with what they are claiming as a propulsion problem."

Now that seems straightforward enough - but in reality it isn't, the overall assessment is a long and tedious process.

Commander Elton Bennett, Vice Commandant, Coast Guard
"What we are doing now is to do our initial assessment. The assessment team from the Department of the Environment along with Port Authority and the Fisheries Department will look at the damage done to the reef system. We also look at the mechanical or navigational paths of that investigation. Once we are finish with that initial part of the investigation we will try to remove the vessel. Once that vessel is removed, we will then do another inspection. Once that inspection is completed then the team will forward its results to be disseminate up the chain. One team will look at the environment part of it and another team will look at the navigation. Our navigation investigation will look at the engine system. They claim that the engine system was a failure. That's the reason why they were washed up ashore. We also look at the navigation system on board, if they were taking fixes along the way. We look at their logs to see what type of operations were running from the bridge."

But the most arduous task of the entire marine operation would be getting the gunboat off the reef or in this case - at least steadily shifting its direction.

The second Guatemalan vessel - which was just outside the 12 mile range of territorial sea - was used to tug the other.

The boat tugged and tugged until the engine was over-heated and smoke billowed out. This attempt began at 5:00 pm and continued until the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a message instructing the team to keep the vessel grounded on the reef for tonight and to ensure it doesn't leave.

Courtney Weatherburne
"These lights sparkling in the distance, may resemble the steady and gentle burring of two candles beneath a starless sky. But there is more beyond the beauty and the mystery of this backdrop. These lights were raised above the Guatemalan Naval vessel, which is lodge on the reef over a quarter mile from Glover's Reef. 20 Coast Guard personnel, 2 Port Authority officials and 3 environmentalists have been working tirelessly trying ride the angle of the boat to restrict its movement, minimizing further damage to the reef. They were successful and operation have ceased for tonight, but tomorrow is another day and the overall assessment of the site has just begun."

And day 2 began at 6 am when a Belizean tugboat arrived to try and drag the vessel off.

Again the Nylon - Cotton line was attached to what is known as the bollard of the Guatemalan ship and the operation resumed.

It was a repeat of yesterday, but only this time - the line snapped and the tug boat had to head back to the Port of Big Creek to get another, sturdier line.

And according to the Coast Guard personnel if that doesn't work, the Guatemalans may have to help out by sending a bigger tugboat.

Very grueling but very necessary to ensure the protection of the reef and the safe return of the Guatemalan vessel to Puerto Barrios.

Commander Elton Bennett, Vice Commandant, Coast Guard
"What we did this morning, the officer from the Department of the Environment conducted his dive. He confirmed the best angle for the vessel to be removed and of course causing little damage to the reef and that's the main priority at this stage to ensure that no further damage or as minimum damage is sustain to the reef during this part of the operation. So, that dive was conducted this morning. We discussed with the captain on board and yes this is the best angle for the ship to be removed. Once the vessel is removed and we've conducted our final investigation on the reef system and the vessels are out of sight, then we move back to Belize City."

Coast Guard officers are still out at sea and when we spoke to Coast Guard Commander Bennett this evening he told us that the new tug line was brought from Puerto Barrios at 12 noon. Bennett also said that his team will retry the tugging operation during high tide. Looking at the state of the Guatemalan vessel - two holes are in the hull of the vessel but the water is being pumped out as quickly as it gets in. In terms of the reef - The Department of Environment has not released the results of the onsite assessment as yet but according to the environmentalist on site - so far he sees no damage to the live coral. In terms of what happens next or what happens after the ship is removed and sent off back to Guatemala -it is left up to the Ministry of Foreign affairs and the Guatemalan Foreign Ministry to discuss cost of damage or compensation after the assessment is finalized. Again Bennett reiterates, based on the investigation so far, this was not an intentional action by the Guatemalans.

The Department of the environment released its initial findings 40 minutes ago. They say, quote, "the area where the naval vessel grounded comprises of 'bear rocks' with minimal damage seen along the vessel's path to the point of grounding and was limited to two coral species, namely Fire Coral and Elkhorn Coral." The release adds that the flat bottomed design of the vessel is the reason for what so far appears to be minimal damage.

But, it doesn't end there. The release adds, quote, "Upon its removal from the reef crest, and as long as the weather permits, the DOE and Fisheries Departments will be conducting the environmental damage assessment to determine the extent of the damage to the Belize Barrier Reef, including any damages that may occur during removal. Once completed, the Environmental Damage Assessment Report will be forwarded to the Ministries of National Security and of Foreign Affairs." End quote.

Channel 7

Field Report : Guatemalan Vessel Stuck on Reef


Belmopan. June 12, 2015. On June 11, 2015, the Department on the Environment (DOE) received a report of a vessel grounding near Middle Caye on the Glover’s Reef Atoll. Upon receiving such report, the Department of the Environment (DOE) responded by dispatching personnel to the site along with members of the Fisheries Department, the Belize National Coast Guard and the Belize Port Authority in accordance with the National Standard Operating Procedure for Marine Casualties.

The team has confirmed that a 65-foot Guatemalan Naval Vessel, bearing the marking GC-651 Tecum Uman and having a crew of eleven members, has been grounded on the crest of the Barrier Reef approximately 500 meters north of Middle Caye. Upon conducting a preliminary assessment of the incident, it has been learnt that the area where the naval vessel grounded comprises of “bare rocks” with minimal damage seen along the vessel’s path to the point of grounding and was limited to two coral species, namely Fire Coral and Elkhorn Coral. The design of the vessel, having jet propulsion and a flat bottom, has been attributed to the reason for minimal damage observed during the preliminary assessment.

The team has since supervised initial efforts to remove the vessel from the reef, taking into consideration the safety protocols for both human life and the environment, as well as the integrity of the vessel. At about 5:00 a.m. today, 12th June, 2015, a tug boat from Guatemala arrived to remove the vessel from the reef crest. However after several attempts, it was determined that additional ropes were necessary to safely remove the vessel because the ropes the tug boat was using kept breaking, and as such, additional ropes will be brought in from Guatemala.

Upon its removal from the reef crest, and as long as the weather permits, the DOE and Fisheries Departments will be conducting the environmental damage assessment to determine the extent of the damage to the Belize Barrier Reef, including any damages that may occur during removal. Once completed, the Environmental Damage Assessment Report will be forwarded to the Ministries of National Security and of Foreign Affairs.

#505179 - 06/13/15 04:46 AM Re: Guatemalan Vessel Grounded On Belize Reef [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Dec 2006
Posts: 11,759
elbert Offline
elbert  Offline
The weather this week is going to make this situation a lot worse. We're in for a lot of high wind and large waves.

The Dive Shops Daily Blog
#505205 - 06/14/15 04:56 AM Re: Guatemalan Vessel Grounded On Belize Reef [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 52,988
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

Guatemalan military vessel removed from Belize’s Reef

Guatemalan gunboat GC-651, which was ran aground on the reef between Long Caye and Middle Caye in Glover's Reef on Wednesday night, was successfully removed today during high tide. We are told that the vessel has been allowed to return to Puerto Barrios with all crew aboard, which is a deviation from established protocol when a vessel damages the reef. The Marine Casualty Investigation Team will now complete its assessment and hand it over to the Ministries of National Security and Foreign Affairs.

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