Concerns Rise as Drilling Rig Appears Near Belize’s Hol Chan Marine Reserve
A drilling rig in Belize’s waters has raised concerns among residents in San Pedro Town and other coastal areas. The rig called, Ship Frida One, is a vessel registered in Panama and is currently stationed just outside the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. It is a situation that was brought to the attention of Oceana Belize just after nine o’clock this morning. We spoke with Oceana’s Vice President, Jeanelle Chanona who said she had made immediate queries to the authorities.
Janelle Chanona, President, Oceana: “About 9:30 this morning my phone started making all sorts of noises and I picked it up and I have 45 messages from my contacts in San Pedro, several of them are sharing photos, they are asking me to find out what this is and why is an oil rig here. They already have the MVP tracker app going and they could tell me the name of the boat so they knew what it was and I was grateful I was sitting down I was shocked as they were and just really concerned of what is happening. So I reached out to the Ministry of Blue Economy about 9:30, I reached out to everybody that I can think about that could let us know quickly what was happening because you know so I am calling out people are reaching out, new people from all over San Pedro and Caye Caulker asking for information and so finally we got through to the port authorities and so we reached out back to Ambergris Today who had initially posted the first set of photos and we said OK you know you asked us to help with information and here’s what we found out that it was a rig, it in Belizean waters and when we were able to subsequently update that the port was saying it was transiting and it was going to head back out because of a legal issue on the Mexican side.”
Once the minds were at ease and concerns were allayed, Chanona noted the importance of being informed in advance by the authorities. She also spoke on the importance of Belizeans to stay alert on what’s going on in our environment.
Janelle Chanona, President, Oceana: “If anybody was uncertain of just how this industry and how offshore oil on a whole plays into our local dynamic I think this incident really shows that some thought should have been given into the fact that this isn’t little vessel this is an oil rig and that it would have caused concern for people seeing it and talking to the fisherman and they were just as I said in complete shock. So it’s unfortunate that that advance notice was not given but I will say it’s been helpful in terms of being able to document where Belizeans are on this and I think it really goes to show that nobody wants any surprises when it comes to this issue and that until we have those safeguards in place then one day we could be waking up to an oil rig on our horizon and then you know it will be too late for us to be involved in decisions around that issue. So that is where we try to see the silver lining in these situations. I’m really sorry that people understandably were very concerned and very worried and one person said “oh I could breathe now.” you know but seeing the upside of this is that if we needed a pulse check on where things are in terms of the local perspective on this issue I think we got it today in terms of the situation. It just goes to show Belizeans understandably and deservedly want to be informed about what’s happening in their waters and want to know who is moving through and who is doing what here and I don’t think anybody should have a problem with that really because you know the ocean is a big place but it can’t be out of sight out of mind and we have a lot of people on the water all the time.”
The Ministry of the Blue Economy did issue a release this afternoon, documenting the very same rationale and explanation passed on to Oceana Belize.