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Government Looks into Grounding of Guatemalan Naval Vessel on Belize Reef

– Press Release, Belize Government Press Office – On June 11, 2015, the Department on the Environment (DOE) received a report of a vessel grounding near Middle Caye on the Glover’s Reef Atoll. Upon receiving such report, the Department of the Environment (DOE) responded by dispatching personnel to the site along with members of the Fisheries Department, the Belize National Coast Guard and the Belize Port Authority in accordance with the National Standard Operating Procedure for Marine Casualties.

The team confirmed that a 65-foot Guatemalan Naval Vessel, bearing the marking GC-651 Tecum Uman and having a crew of eleven members, grounded on the crest of the Barrier Reef approximately 500 meters north of Middle Caye. Upon conducting a preliminary assessment of the incident, it was learnt that the area where the naval vessel grounded comprises of “bear rocks” with minimal damage seen along the vessel’s path to the point of grounding and was limited to two coral species, namely Fire Coral and Elkhorn Coral. The design of the vessel, having jet propulsion and a flat bottom, has been attributed to the reason for minimal damage observed during the preliminary assessment.

The team has since supervised initial efforts to remove the vessel from the reef, taking into consideration the safety protocols for both human life and the environment, as well as the integrity of the vessel. At about 5:00 a.m. on June 12, 2015, a tug boat from Guatemala arrived to remove the vessel from the reef crest. However after several attempts, it was determined that additional ropes were necessary to safely remove the vessel because the ropes the tug boat was using kept breaking, and as such, additional ropes will be brought in from Guatemala.

Upon its removal from the reef crest, and as long as the weather permits, the DOE and Fisheries Departments will be conducting the environmental damage assessment to determine the extent of the damage to the Belize Barrier Reef, including any damages that may occur during removal. Once completed, the Environmental Damage Assessment Report will be forwarded to the Ministries of National Security and of Foreign Affairs.

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