The Bahamas Government investigates potential damage from sheltering cruise ships

   September 7, 2020 ,   Accidents

The Bahamas officials launched a joint probe into claims of "potential environmental damage" caused by ships sheltering in waters close to the Berry Islands.

According to the statement, cruise ships had been allowed to shelter within The Bahamas' territorial waters. Initial assessments had reportedly shown significant damage to marine assets allegedly "caused by anchors of vessels anchoring in the area."

“We are engaging in more detailed inquiries of all vessels sheltering in our waters regarding their anchorage locations and practices.

“Furthermore, divers from the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and the Department of the Environment have been dispatched to carry out our own anchorage site assessments.

“The initial dive, which was limited in scope, clearly showed significant damage to marine assets allegedly caused by anchors of vessels anchoring in the area. These initial findings necessitate a comprehensive assessment of much of the area between the Berry Islands and Bimini.

“It is well established that while in Bahamian waters sheltering ships must at all times anchor safely to protect life and the environment.

“This requires, by international safe practice: sufficient depth of water to provide a generous margin for vessel safety; sufficient distance between each vessel’s anchorage to assure that the ships cannot interfere with each other; sufficient length of anchor chain along the sea bottom to assure a proper angle of holding force to keep the ship safely in place (this has some localized effect on the seabed, but is not permitted to impact essential marine resources); and sufficient distance from any designated essential marine resource.”

Great Harbour Cay (Bahamas, Berry Islands)

The intergovernmental team comprises stakeholders from the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources; and the Environment and Housing.

The statement also read the alarming claims had "prompted various government Ministries and agencies to meet, discuss and determine the accuracy of the claims and to formulate an emergency plan of action in the event such claims were accurate.”

As a first step, the following reminder had been sent to all ships in order to verify that vessel anchorages had been effected in a manner that was safe, and that complied with all requirements, including environmental requirements.

“To all vessels sheltering in the territorial waters of The Bahamas, we would remind you that each vessel has been and continues to be obliged to anchor, operate and navigate in a manner in all respects safe and in all respects compliant with all local laws and regulations, including safety and environmental regulations.

“This extends to discharges of any kind, to the avoidance of any protected or restricted areas, and to the avoidance of damages to any sensitive commercial and environmental resources including reefs.”