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Port Authority to Investigate Missing Cargo Boat

Nine days after a cargo vessel sank in Belize’s territorial waters the Belize Port Authority announced on Tuesday, March 29, that it will be conducting an investigation into the incident. The Panamanian flagged vessel, the Helga, went down in the early morning hours of Sunday, March 25 after the captain radioed in an SOS distress call to the Belize National Coast Guard.

According to a statement from the Belize Port Authority, the investigation will be conducted in conjunction with the Panama Maritime Authority, with support from other technical agencies such as the Department of the Environment, Belize National Coast Guard and the Belize Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute.

The investigation, according to the Port Authority will be done according to the Code of International Standards and Recommended practice for Safety Investigation into maritime Casualty or Marine Incident. It will determine the possible environmental threat to the immediate reef system that would be caused by the seepage of diesel fuel and engine oil from the sunken vessel.

The Port Authority release says that although the vessel’s cargo was salt, the main challenge is that the vessel sunk in a position approximately three nautical miles east of Northern Caye Caulker in a depth of seven hundred meters of water with an unknown quantity of diesel fuel and used engine oil on board. The release points out that so far, there have been no reports of seepage from the sunken vessel. The eleven member crew of the Helga included a captain, chief engineer and helmsman, who remain missing. Eight of the crew members were rescued hours after the stricken vessel sunk, by a search team from the Belize National Coast guard.

News by: Patrick Jones

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