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Albany clients hit by 'horrific' oil spills

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Albany’s marina chief yesterday said he was “hoping and praying” the Government would finally take concrete action over persistent oil spills at Clifton Pier, as there had been several “horrific” incidents witnessed by the development’s high-end guests.

Derek Roderick, the southwestern New Providence project’s harbourmaster, told Tribune Business that its marina had been impacted “nine to 12 times” by oil pollution since it opened in October 2010.

While describing just three incidents as “really bad”, Mr Roderick revealed that one - which occurred on March 10/11 last year, had left some of Albany’s multi-million dollar yacht clientele “freaking out”.

Both they and Albany marina staff had to watch helplessly as thick oily sludge, mixed with bilge and other fuel-related pollution, covered docks and slips that, in some cases, had cost clients up to $3 million.

Multi-million dollar yachts saw their hulls covered with oil, and Mr Roderick said the fumes given off were so “horrendous” that many persons had to vacate the deck and seek refuge inside.

He added that it cost Albany’s marina “thousands of dollars” to hire an overseas company to scrub the marina and boats clean, an operation that took seven to nine months to complete.

Mr Roderick’s comments, given to Tribune Business via phone and e-mail, emphasise how persistent oil pollution is not the image the Bahamas wants to be portraying, especially when it is impacting the high net worth client base the Government is so keen to attract to these shores.

“I run the number one marina in this country as well as the surrounding regions,” Mr Roderick told Tribune Business via e-mail.

“How am I to explain the blatant disregard for our beautiful waters, environment and eco-system by our government to the highest end, most professional clientele in the world?”

Mr Roderick said that while the most recent oil spill had not impacted Albany, this was because the marina - learning quickly from past experience - had deployed its 300-foot containment boom across the channel entrance.

“However, in the past years, several times the seepage from the slick has made its way into my basin, affecting/staining my floating docks, seawalls, the hulls of yachts worth hundreds of million dollars, not to mention the dangerous and nauseating fumes, discomforting and concerning my guests and owners,” Mr Roderick told Tribune Business.

“In the end, it cost my operation thousands of dollars in clean up fees from an offsite company.”

The Government will likely be unable to ignore the oil pollution at Clifton any longer, given the clout and influence Albany - and its principals - have by virtue of their $1 billion-plus investment.

The chief investors behind Albany are Lyford Cay-based billionaire Joe Lewis, and his world-renowned professional golfing partners, Tiger Woods and Ernie Els.

And, more importantly, the incidents at Albany have the potential to damage the Bahamas’ reputation as an investment-friendly destination, plus its tourism and environmental standing.

It will be even more damaging if it starts to circulate in high net worth investor circles, the clients vital to the Bahamas’ economic future when it comes to foreign direct investment (FDI), second home market and financial services.

Speaking to Tribune Business via phone, Mr Roderick said: “It’s [oil spills] happened nine to 12 times since we opened up in October 2010. It’s not been bad every time; three times’ it’s been really bad.”

Suggesting that the problem was becoming worse, not better, he added that the March 10/11 episode last year “was one of the worst”, and coincided with when the Albany marina was full with home-based and visiting yachts.

“The smell was horrendous,” he recalled. “Clients were looking at me and just freaking out. We have the heaviest hitters in the country down here.

“It was horrific. It’s a huge problem, and I’m hoping and praying it gets a lot more traction. It’s a disaster. It’s nothing new and has been gone on for decades.

‘They [the Government] have to do something. You can’t turn your head away when everyone’s talking about it, especially at a $1 billion project.”

Tribune Business understands that Albany executives were in immediate contact with Government and Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) officials following the March 2013 oil spills.

And sources familiar with developments told this newspaper that a US firm, NRCC, had developed a plan to deal with Clifton Pier’s oil pollution issues from two years ago.

This, Tribune Business understands, would have addressed the sludge left by deep well injections; remediation via injections into the limestone; stoppage of leakage and better tankage/storage; and the removal of the waste oil/sludge from the Bahamas for treatment elsewhere.

All this raises questions about why successive governments have failed to take action sooner.

Kenred Dorsett, minister of the environment, earlier this week said the Government had contracted another US firm, Coastal Systems International, to deal with the oil pollution situation at Clifton Pier.

Mr Roderick’s comments back those by Stuart Cove, principal of Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas, who warned earlier this week that the latest Clifton oil spill could leave the Bahamas with “a real black eye” internationally, having potentially cost his business “tens of thousands of dollars” in damages.

He expressed concern that the spill could become “an international incident” that harms the Bahamas’ tourism reputation, after some 300 persons witnessed its effects on his business.

Describing oil spills, and their effects, off southwestern New Providence as a decades-old issue, Mr Cove revealed that “two dozen dive sites” - including the world-renowned ‘James Bond’ wreck - were frequently rendered off limits when the wind came from the east.

This occurred “most of the time”, threatening an industry - and key site - that studies have shown helps to inject millions into the Bahamian economy annually.

Comments

asiseeit 7 years, 8 months ago

Oh dear, not the people at Albany, that is an outrage. I guess because Albany is affected The Government better do something. Believe in that.

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sansoucireader 7 years, 8 months ago

Yep, the average everyday Bahamian will be ignored but let 'other people' be upset about something and see how quick they are to apologize and attempt to make things right. SMT.

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observer2 7 years, 8 months ago

Yes, very bad that foreign yatchs got oil on their hulls.

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The_Oracle 7 years, 8 months ago

Perhaps we can sue the British, seems negligence could be proven, pretty negligent to turn the territory over to the natives! Can't manage money, the environment, civil servants, law and order, crime, casino revenues, BEC, Water and Sewage, the public Hospital, public transport, damn, is there anything we can manage? We have even screwed up Junkanoo!

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Well_mudda_take_sic 7 years, 8 months ago

My oh my! These wealthy Albany investors and Albany residents have had their beaches and yachts tarred by the Bahamian government, but not yet feathered!! They had best keep their mouths shut when it comes to the international press or the feathers will soon be coming their way!!! Remember well the country you live in and play by Vomit's rules...OR ELSE!!!!!

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