Owner of sailboat lodged on the reef allowed to leave amidst investigation
Friday, February 13th, 2015
The Belize Department of the Environment (DOE) has finally released details about the incident in which sail boat Termaji, originally from France, ran aground on the reef near Caye Caulker on December 30th. The island residents of Caye Caulker village are concerned that if not moved soon, the vessel may cause further damage to the reef eco-system. It was not until Oceana in Belize joined the residents of Caye Caulker Village in calling for the removal of the vessel that the DOE sent out a press release over a month after the incident.
According to DOE, at about 7pm on December 30, 2014, personnel from the Department of Environment (DOE) were informed of a vessel grounding that occurred on the Belize Barrier Reef just south of the access channel near Caye Caulker Village. The DOE contacted the relevant agencies, including Belize Fisheries Department and the Belize Port Authority, who responded to the incident in accordance with the National Standard Operating Procedure for Marine Casualties. “During the response to the reported area by the team on 31st December, 2014, the DOE personnel observed a stationary 40-foot, blue and red steel hull sail boat named “Termaji,” with Flag State as France. Upon investigations, it was learned that the owner and captain of the vessel, a French National, were attempting to access the channel in front of Caye Caulker Village when the vessel grounded on the reef,” stated the press release from the DOE dated February 6th.
According to the release, 100 gallons of diesel was inside the storage tank of the vessel. DOE reported that the diesel was immediately removed to prevent any spill or contamination of the exposed reef crest. “In the implementation of the National Standard Operating Procedure for Marine Casualties, the DOE and other relevant agencies has since made several attempts to remove the vessel from its grounded position, but because of inclement weather, the team had to postpone the removal of the vessel for safety reasons on more than one occasion.”
DOE reports that they have since visited the grounding site with two prominent salvage companies established within Belize and were scheduled to commence salvaging operations on January 15th. “Since the commencement of salvaging operations, several uncontrollable setbacks have been experienced that have delayed the removal of the vessel from the reef. However, the vessel has been moved approximately 15-20ft away from its original position into deeper water, where it has been secured to ensure as minimal damage as possible to coral colonies nearby… upon its removal, a damage assessment will be conducted to determine the extent of the damage to the Belize Barrier Reef.”
DOE did not release the name of the French sailor and owner of the vessel but confirmed that sailor has left the country. They also did not say under what terms the owner of the vessel was allowed to leave the country prior to an assessment of the damages caused to the reef and how he intends to compensate for damages.
The release ends by stating that once the weather allows for the safe removal of the vessel, the team will return to the site to continue final removal from the reef. This is because removing the vessel from the reef can potentially be very dangerous to personnel in bad weather. The San Pedro Sun will continue to follow up on any new developments in this story.
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