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.
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