Panamanian cargo ship remains stuck in Belize’s reef

Panamanian cargo ship remains stuck in Belize’s reef

A Panamanian cargo ship remains stuck in a portion of the reef east of Drowned Cayes after it ran aground over the weekend. The ship was transiting Belizean waters, carrying containers and breakbulk cargo, when it experienced mechanical failure. The Belize Port Authority, along with the Department of the Environment, and the Belize Fisheries Department, have since launched a marine causality incident investigation into the matter. Today, Acting Ports Commissioner, Darlin Gaitan, gave an update on the investigation and said that so far the BPA’s salvage operation has been unsuccessful. 

Darlin Gaitan, Acting Ports Commissioner: “Yesterday there was a salvage operation commenced however it was not successful and so today it has reinitiated again with more resources because yesterday they didn’t have enough resources to pull the vessel off successfully and so now the company has been advised to up their resources in terms of removing that vessel as soon as possible.”

Reporter: Has it been determined whether there will be pollution ? 

Darlin Gaitan, Acting Ports Commissioner: “Pollution in terms of spillage no. What we have here so far is a case of environmental damage but not pollution from the ship in terms of any discharge overboard.

Reporter: Is this directly over the reef ?

Darlin Gaitan, Acting Ports Commissioner: “Yes it’s on reef. Currently the investigation is ongoing so that would have to be upon conclusion that there would be, if any, charges to the ship. But in terms of the environmental aspect of it, that would be the Department of the Environment so I wouldn’t be able to comment on DOE’s charges or any negotiations.”

Gaitan says that the investigation is yet to ascertain the full environmental impacts and damage assessment on the environment. According to her, the captain of the vessel may face charges based on the outcome of the investigation. 

Darlin Gaitan, Acting Ports Commissioner: “This will be ship side in terms of what processes, what steps they took to prevent the grounding or what were the causes the led to the grounding. So those are still part of the safety investigation at this time.”

Reporter: Did we know that this ship was in our waters before this happened ?

Darlin Gaitan, Acting Ports Commissioner: “Yes absolutely we do have AIS tracking which is monitoring a vessel’s transponder through the Automatic Identification System. The Belize Port Authority mans 24/7 vessel movement and so we were able to see the vessel when it entered territorial waters and when it went into the reef. From all indications from the team that’s on sight it has to be removed and it will be removed no matter the resources.”

Reporter: And that cost falls up on the ..

Darlin Gaitan, Acting Ports Commissioner: “The owner. Absolutely and they are cooperating so we don’t foresee there is going to be an issue in terms of the removal of the vessel. They are fully on board, they are cooperating and they are putting all resources necessary for the safe removal of the vessel because you don’t want an even bigger impact with the unsafe removal.”

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