Minister calls for action to remove wrecked vessels | THE DAILY HERALD

Many of the wrecks in Oyster Pond were cleared soon after the hurricane

PHILIPSBURG–Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Stuart Johnson has expressed his concerns over the almost two-year delay in removing wrecked vessels from the coastal waters and Simpson Bay Lagoon.

He is calling on all parties involved for the expedited removal of boat wrecks, some at sea and others in inland waters, that were damaged when Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck in September 2017.

Almost one month into the 2019 hurricane season there are still several shipwrecks that have not been removed. “As we drive on the Airport Road or the Causeway Bridge these reminders of the devastating impact that Hurricane Irma had on the island send a negative message about our recovery efforts and distract from the positive work our people have done to rebuild our destination,” Johnson said Sunday.

“As a tourist destination that has spent the better part of the past 12 months working on promoting the reopening of the island post-Irma and Maria, I find it horrendous that we still have these wreckages in plain view for our visitors to see,” Johnson said.

Whether it is a funding issue or an administrative bottleneck causing delays in removing these vessels, Johnson believes the situation needs to be resolved urgently.

The Ministry of TEATT is charged with the responsibility to provide better safeguards for the marine trade industry during a disaster. He said that having shipwrecks in the water heading into the most active period of the hurricane season will be the cause of further damage should a hurricane develop in our region.

He said now is not the time for continued bureaucratic delaying and red tape. “We have spent too long planning and talking, and I believe this is the time for a real call to action. These vessels cannot continue to be an eyesore for our people or be left to cause further destruction to our environment,” said Johnson.

“The yachting industry contributes significantly to the island’s economy and…is crucial to the government’s promise of providing a sustainable living for the people. This industry must be protected, and whatever needs to happen, the bottom line is that these wrecks must go,” minister Johnson said.

The St. Maarten Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience Trust Fund’s Annual Report 2018, prepared by the St. Maarten Trust Fund Secretariat and the World Bank, stated that in April 2018 there were still 130 wrecks to be disposed of.

An Emergency Debris Management Project for ports and marinas of US $25 million is in preparation under the Economic Recovery and Resilience Plan.

Source: The Daily Herald