Tourism Minister the honourable Stuart Johnson has expressed concern over the almost two-year delay in removing wrecked vessels from the coastal waters and lagoon on Dutch St. Maarten.
He is advocating a call to action by all concerned parties for the expedited removal of the boat wrecks.
Since September 6th, 2017, several vessels, some that were on the seaside and others in inland waters, were damaged when hurricanes Irma and Maria struck the island.
Almost one month into the 2019 hurricane season there are still several wrecked vessels 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 distracts from the positive work our people have done to rebuild our destination,” said Johnson.
"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," said Johnson on Sunday.
Whether it is a funding issue or an administrative bottleneck that has caused the delay in removing these vessels, Johnson believes that the time has long past, and it is now at the point where the situation which was called a "Crisis by others" needs to be resolved urgently.
The Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport & Telecommunication (TEATT) is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the disaster management component of the Marine Trade Industry is revised to provide better safeguards during a disaster.
However, Johnson laments that the dilemma and challenge posed by having existing wrecks still in the water heading into the most active period of the hurricane season are that these same wrecks will be the cause of further damage should a hurricane develop in our region.
However, Johnson laments that the dilemma and challenge posed by having existing wrecks still in the water heading into the most active period of the hurricane season
He said now is simply 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 provides a unique quality of 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," said Johnson.
The St. Maarten Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience Trust Fund's Annual Report 2018, prepared by the St. Maarten Trust Fund Secretariat, Caribbean Country Management Unit, and Latin America and the Caribbean Region World Bank produced for April – December 2018, stated that there were still 130 wrecks to be disposed of by April of that year. The book also mentioned that in Pillar 2 of the Economic Recovery and Resilience Plan on Page 27 of its Publication ‘Ports and Marinas - Emergency Debris Management Project (US$25M, under preparation): Vessel Salvaging.’