Summerwind Yacht facing charges

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 15, No. 17            April 28, 2005

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The Government of Belize is considering legal action against the luxury yacht that last month damaged a portion of the barrier reef off the shore of San Pedro. The Belize Department of the Environment (DOE) says the yacht violated Section 29, Chapter 328 of the Environmental Protection Act (EPA). Mr. Ismael Fabro, Chief Environmental Officer in the Department of the Environment, told The San Pedro Sun that the DOE is still pursuing the matter and that in violation, DOE would charge the lavish vessel. Fabro said the DOE had notified authorities in Honduras and Guatemala to be on the look out for the Summerwind and that they were also in the process of notifying the Mexican authorities to do the same.  The Summerwind is registered and sails under the flag of the Marshall Islands, whose offices are located in New York. He also stated that the DOE was looking into ways of how best to serve those responsible with a summons to appear in court, in this case either the captain or the owner/s. Mr. Fabro said the “the arms of the law reached beyond the borders of Belize.”

   Fabro also said lawyers representing the Summerwind are seeking a meeting to “settle the matter.” He stated the lawyer wanted to arrange a meeting on Wednesday of this week. Fabro added that this particular infraction, according to laws under the EPA, does not allow for an out-of-court settlement.

   A spokesperson for Summerwind told The San Pedro Sun that the mishap occurred when they “moved the boat due to a low tide situation with high wind and there was a fear that the diesel tanks which are located on the very bottom of the yacht could potentially burst if the shallow water allowed the boat to hit any obstruction. With a boat of fiberglass construction, a punctured tank could prove fatal to the entire crew and would literally burst into flames. Besides this potentially life threatening situation, there was of course the fear of the eco-damage that could also occur. In other words, in an attempt to do the right thing and avoid a potential problem, another was caused.”

   According to the Belize Port Authority and Eurocaribe Shipping Service, who acted as the shipping agent for the luxury yacht at the request of the Port Authority, Summerwind was pre-warned about the rules and regulations when entering Belizean waters.

   After the accident, the Belize Port Authority said they issued an order: “Prohibition of Sailing Provision,” whereby they were not to leave Belizean waters until the matter had been resolved. Several days later, the Summerwind left its harbor in front of San Pedro Town for reportedly for Honduras, then to Florida.

   The Summerwind spokesperson added, “Summerwind’s attitude was that a 48-hour timeframe existed in which Summerwind was to be formally charged.  That period came and went with no action from any of the GOB’s offices.  Captain Adam visited Belize City and Belmopan at his own expense to verify what he could do, if anything, to help rectify the situation. He was notified of the 48-hour window from the GOB’s offices that he visited. He was told by the boat’s management company that after the 48-hour window passed they were free to leave as they wished.  They did so using the normal exiting procedures and didn’t “disappear.” They also paid $700 per day, along with other taxes, to the port authority here and followed every rule and instruction that was given them.”

   The ‘Sun’ asked Mr. Fabro about the 48-hour timeframe claimed by Captain Adam, he stated that under the EPA, the DOE has up to two years to press charges, and that the 48-hour time limit “was total nonsense.”
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