By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
FIVE cruise ships had to be re-routed yesterday after the Port Department was forced to "shut down" Nassau harbour as a precautionary measure amid heavy swells.
Captain Cyril Roker, the Port Controller, told Tribune Business that large waves had pushed channel markers into the direct deep water path of oncoming vessels. He added that channel markers or buoys would normally serve as markers for the safest path for such vessels to follow.
"Nothing could have come in or gone out as a result of those buoys being in the channel," Captain Roker explained.
"We decided to take precautionary measures. The heavy swells took the buoys out of position and put them in the channel, and if a ship came in that could have caused other problems, potentially damaging the ship's propeller and rudder.
"These buoys consist of a cylindrical object with a heavy chain, and a slab that anchors them to the bottom of the sea. We looked at trying to remove them but we saw that it was too dangerous. There was no possibility of moving them and putting them back in place yesterday due to the rough seas. While five ships is a lot, a life lost is something you can't pay for."
Captain Roker added: "I would say the weather was a factor indirectly. The ships could have come in otherwise. The only time we close the harbour down is when a hurricane is imminent. Once the wind exceeds 50 miles per hour we don't bring anything in.
"We didn't have that kind of action. There was a system that came off the coast of the United States that produced a lot of heavy swells." Captain Roker said the harbour is now back open.
The Ministry of Tourism, in a statement yesterday, acknowledged that all cruise ships that were due to arrive in New Providence yesterday were rerouted. "The five cruise ships expected to call on the Port of Nassau have been diverted to various locations. Visitor safety remains a top priority for the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation, and we will continue to monitor the weather along with our colleagues at the Port Department. The Ministry will be assessing the impact over the next few days," the Ministry of Tourism said.
The cancelled calls potentially deprived Bahamian-owned businesses in downtown Nassau and Paradise Island, not to mention the major resorts, of thousands of dollars in lost revenues.