MTE sanctions reef-crunching vessels... Fantome drags anchor over coral garden at Glover's Reef

The 282 foot four masted Fantome

Press Release - August 4, 1997 - Department of the Environment - The Ministry of Tourism and the Environment (MTE) informs the general public that it has reviewed all relevant information and evidence in regard to incidents causing damage to the Belize Barrier Reef's Ecosystem, involving the vessels Rembrandt Van Rijn on 25th June, 1997, at Halfmoon Caye and the Fantome on 17th July, 1997, in the vicinity of Glover's Reef.

The evaluation of the evidences, shows that in both cases the incidences occurred as a result of NEGLIGENCE. We would like to let the general public be informed that the Ministry of Tourism and the Environment will not tolerate any activity that imperils our Belize Barrier Reef and its supporting ecosystem.

The Ministry has decided to take the following measures in an attempt to prevent further reoccurrences of this nature and show of the great value that we place on this most important ecosystem.

In the instance of Rembrandt Van Rijn and the Fantome, the Ministry of Tourism and the Environment has made the following decisions:

I. Both boats will be given the following options:

A. Have their licences to operate in Belize suspended until they have complied with all the agreed conditions set out in the Environmental Compliance Plan (ECP) and until appropriate mooring facilities have been put in place at the sites they both visit.
B. Pay a fine of Seventy-Five Thousand Dollars ($75,000), with their operations restricted to anchoring only at the following three sites: Belize City Harbor, English Caye Mooring Facility, Placencia. Visitation to other sites will not be permitted until appropriate mooring facilities have been placed at these other sites.
II. Both companies will be given a definite period of time to address the other conditions contained in the Environmental Compliance Plan for Cruise Ships.
In respect to other vessels operating in Belizean waters, they will be notified of any breach of their Environmental Compliance Plan and will be given thirty (30) days to remedy the breach.

The public is also being informed that as a result of these recent incidents, the Ministry of Tourism and the Environment, with the support of the Belize Tourist Board, is in the process of reviewing and updating its licensing procedures with the goal of ensuring greater protection of the Belize Barrier Reef and its supporting ecosystem.

A new registration requirement of cruise ships and other recreational vehicles will be the placement of an Environmental Surety Bond from each vessel.

The Ministry of Tourism and the Environment is hereby asking for the cooperation of the general public in the monitoring activities on or around our reef ecosystems and we encourage them to report any activity/incident(s) that may have caused or is likely to cause damage to our Great Barrier Reef of Belize.

End of Press Release

This is not the first incident involving the Fantome. For a quite different attitude, here is what a Fantome passenger had to say about an incident in Mexico. A report of a trip to Isla Mujeres where the Fantome used to sail was filed on the Internet by a Tony Sibol in October of 1996. He discusses the Fantome running aground. He said, "....there were many rumours about problems with the Mexican government and damage to their reef. Some of the rumours involved fines or payment in significant $ amounts. I asked Captain Sean what was going on so my report could be accurate. He replied, 'It was company business and business as normal in Mexico.' At first I wasn't happy with the answer; but then realized that it was the only answer he should have given. If minor Mexican officials had any hint Windjammer might pay them off in some way to avoid inconvenience, the line of people with their hand out would form on the left....."

The Fantome, one of the largest four masted schooners in the world, was built in 1927 for the Duke of Westminster accommodates 128 people and is 282 feet long. The Rembrandt van Rijn is a 185 foot three-masted gaff topsail schooner.

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