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Environmental concerns over Abaco barge stuck on reef

BARGE and tug boat encountered rough seas while on their way to deliver pea rock to Baker’s Bay ending up stranded on the reef in the Man-O-War Cay channel.

BARGE and tug boat encountered rough seas while on their way to deliver pea rock to Baker’s Bay ending up stranded on the reef in the Man-O-War Cay channel.

By LEANDRA ROLLE

Tribune CHIEF REPORTER

lrolle@tribunemedia.net

A BARGE that encountered bad weather last week and ended up stuck on a reef in the Man-O- War Channel has sparked environmental concerns from the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) and Abaco residents.

According to residents, the barge and the tugboat were reportedly heading to Baker’s Bay, Abaco, last Wednesday with pea rock on board when it experienced rough seas and ended up stuck in Fowl Cay’s National Park, a protected area managed by the BNT.

The incident prompted area residents to carry out a rescue operation for some six people. Meanwhile, the BNT said it plans to conduct an initial damage assessment of the site to determine the extent of damage after the vessels have been removed.

“Our major concerns at this time are the direct impact to the reef and marine environment, and the risk of the sand onboard spilling into the water, which can smother corals and other organisms,” a senior official said.

Willis Levarity, who led rescue efforts, told The Tribune yesterday that he learned about the distressed barge and tugboat from a friend he had rescued in the past.

The Abaco resident said when he arrived at the site, he met rescue teams there but “they were all afraid” due to the violent waves.

He said crew members “didn’t realise how bad the waves were or how big the waves were until it was too late”.

“The seas were like 15-foot seas that day and they were coming, like I said earlier, under power and the waves took over the barge and the tug wasn’t able to gain control of the barge after the waves started washing in,” he said.

“When I got out there, the two guys on the tug because that was going down faster than the barge, they were getting into a rescue boat so I told them to get into it.”

Mr Levarity said he had to use a friend’s dinghy boat to rescue the remain- ing crew members on the barge.

“I was trying to figure out a way to get the guys off the barge, but I couldn’t get to

them so I had to go back into Guana Cay and I went and the first set of tourists I saw, I wanted to use their dinghy, but they were asking silly questions.”

The Abaco resident said someone else eventually helped him out, allowing him to rescue the remaining crew.

“So I got in and we went out there and that’s how we were able to rescue the other four guys off the barge by taking a dinghy and getting them one at a time and bringing them to my boat and we made that happen.”

Jeremy T Sweeting, chief councillor of the Hope Town District, said while officials are thankful that nobody got hurt, they are concerned about the barge’s potential impact on coral reefs in the area.

“That’s the big concern - the environmental repercussions that could happen if it stays there long term, possible oil and fuel spillage,” he added. “ As far as the district council is concerned, we definitely hope that operators of the barge remove this swiftly because we don’t want any further damage to the reef.”

The BNT said they are keeping a close eye on the situation and are in close communication with the vessels’ owners, the Port Department and the Department of Environmental Planning and Protection.

“BNT’s chief park warden and enforcement staff are on-site daily closely monitoring the situation. We understand there is a salvage vessel onsite, and another vessel on the way, and teams are awaiting improved weather conditions to begin safe and effective salvage operations,” BNT added.

“After the vessels are removed, the BNT and our partners will conduct initial damage assessments to determine the extent and severity of the damage and determine the technical and financial resources needed for restoration and or mitigation.”

Comments

Dawes 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Just say it will create a number of jobs, then all environmental issues go out the window.

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