Cruise ships' toll on ocean floor

Minister of Agriculture Michael Pintard and Minister of the Environment Romauld Ferreira.

Minister of Agriculture Michael Pintard and Minister of the Environment Romauld Ferreira.

GOVERNMENT dive teams have been dispatched to investigate damage to marine life and the seabed from ships sheltering in Bahamian waters near the Berry Islands.

According to a joint statement last night from Minister of Agriculture Michael Pintard and Minister of the Environment Romauld Ferreira, an initial dive, while limited in scope, showed ‘significant damage’ to the marine environment allegedly caused by ship anchors.

The statement said a team is urgently putting together a comprehensive assessment to determine the extent of the damage and quantify the value of the damage and the potential remediation costs. Steps are also being taken, the ministers said, to determine gaps that existed in standard operating procedures, policies or legislation that allowed this situation to occur and engage those responsible so that they take corrective actions.

The statement noted that over the last few days the ministries responsible for marine resources and the environment were made aware of possible damage to the marine environment due to vessels sheltering in Bahamian territory.

“The alarming claims 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,” the ministers said.

The statement stressed that all vessels sheltering in Bahamian waters are “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.”

It added: “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.

“We are engaging in more detailed enquiries 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 localised effect on the seabed, but is not permitted to impact essential marine resources; and sufficient distance from any designated essential marine resource.”

The ministers said the cruise ship industry has long been an integral part of the Bahamian economy, partnering with the country to bring millions of visitors to Bahamian shores each year.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the shutdown of active cruise operations, cruise ships have been allowed to shelter in Bahamian waters.

“Notwithstanding our long partnership, it is the Bahamas’ uncompromising focus to safeguard the health and safety of our citizens and to protect the marine environment and marine resources upon which we all rely,” they added. “Toward this end the intergovernmental team has undertaken to do the following urgently: complete the comprehensive assessment to determine the extent of the damage to our marine environment; quantify the value of the damage and the potential remediation costs; quantify potential loss of revenue to stakeholders who relied on the environmental assets damaged or totally lost; determine gaps that existed in standard operating procedures, policies and or legislation that permitted this occurrence or impacts our response in the aftermath of it (and) engage those responsible so that they would, in the shortest possible time, take corrective actions.

“The months of pandemic have been a most difficult period for all Bahamians, and a tragic period for many of us. While safeguarding our people and our resources, we have been a responsible partner to a cruise industry, and vessels in distress. However, our first priority is to be great stewards of the essential and valuable marine resources that helped make The Bahamas such a special place in the global community. Thanks to all our stakeholders who share this common commitment to protect our country.”

The statement did not specify which ship or ships are responsible for the damage.

Last year, Carnival Corporation came under fire when a court mandated report which covers April 2017 to April 2018, revealed how Carnival illegally dumped hundreds of thousands of treated sewage in Bahamian waters along with more than 8,000 gallons of food waste.

Then in January, Tribune Business reported that Carnival’s court-appointed monitor disclosed further environmental infractions - some of which occurred while vessels were in port in Nassau and Freeport - that took place in 2019. Attorney General Carl Bethel later said the government would seek compensation under recently passed environment laws.


Baha10 3 years, 7 months ago

Disgusting ... and it is ALL OVER THE BAHAMAS if you follow CruiseMapper.com


proudloudandfnm 3 years, 7 months ago

Man. Just order the ships to install mooring buoys. Done. The should have been installed since day one. Sheesh...


ColumbusPillow 3 years, 7 months ago

Ministry of Environment should publish maps showing the location of approved mooring locations for cruise ships. That is responsible action...long overdue.


KapunkleUp 3 years, 7 months ago

Yet another reactive move by the government. Can anyone remember when the government, any government, made a sensible proactive move?


Engineer 3 years, 7 months ago

Only two hog fish and one sting ray affected Minister of Enviroment?


trueBahamian 3 years, 7 months ago

So, let's see. We allowed them to be here, but we didn't understand fully what that meant. Is that what we're reading here?


ConcernedAbout242 3 years, 7 months ago

What is the Bahamas National Trust and The Nature Conservancy and B.R.E.E.F saying about this issue ?


tribanon 3 years, 7 months ago

Pintard and Ferreira are making fools of themselves because they already know that Minnis and D'Aguilar foolishly authorised this environmental nightmare. Marine satellite images of the North West Bahamas since February show many many cruise ships anchored in our territorial waters causing untold damage to the seabed. Minnis and D'Aguilar are quite literally permitting the despicable cruise line companies to destroy our natural heritage.


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