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Report of cruise ships damaging the seabed near the Berry Islands

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced shutdown of active cruise ships operations in the Bahamas and cruise ships have been allowed to shelter in Bahamian waters. According to a report from the director of the Bahamas National Trust, fishermen in the Berry Islands have reported significant damage to the seafloor from cruise ships’ anchors and chains dragging across the seabed. Two miles west of Little Stirrup Cay, a private cruise port (AKA Coco Cay), it’s reported there are 15-18 cruise ships anchored two to three miles apart. The fishermen have said, the anchors are sometimes dragging along the seafloor as ships fail to properly anchor or have to be repositioned.

On Sunday a dive team found “significant damage” to the marine environment allegedly caused by ship anchors.“The anchors are totally destroying the fishing grounds, and dragging through the coral. The chains are dragging coral and mountains of sand, ripping up the shoals and bars, totally devastating the fishing area. It looks like someone was driving a bulldozer across the seafloor,” the report alleged. 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.

The report stressed that all vessels sheltering in Bahamian waters are “obliged to anchor, operate and navigate in a safe manner  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.”

Divers from the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and the Department of the Environment have been ordered to carry out further anchorage site assessments between the Berry Islands and Bimini.

Editors note: Most cruise ships should be able to use Dynamic Positioning to maintain a fixed position providing it is properly manned.

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