Formosa Falcon runs aground off Hepburn Town

by: Sharell Lockhart, FN News Reporter

The Freeport News received several calls from concerned citizens living in the Hepburn Town, Eight Mile Rock community in reference to a tanker running aground just off the shoreline.

Sources close to this daily revealed the tanker ran aground at approximately 9:00 a.m. in the vicinity of the old Evergreen Club adjacent to St. Stephen’s Anglican Church and due to tidal currents the tanker slowly dragged into the area of the Ritz Club in Hepburn Town.

Officials of Smit Lamnalco, a towage and associated marine services company with offices in the Global United Maritime Center, Queens Highway revealed the tanker Formosa Falcon experienced difficulty anchoring and due to a combination of inclement weather, low tide and human error in regards to navigation the vessel ended up stranded closer to the shoreline than expected.

Hepburn Town resident identified by the pseudonym ‘Sister Sledge’ hammered out her feelings in regard to the incident saying, “I do not know who the proper authorities are in matters like this, but I am calling on them to police these waters.

“It is a downright shame to have vessels as large as this one running aground so close to shore.

“Families living along this coastline have been fishing in these waters for generations and when incidents like this occur it is upsetting because these vessels can cause and in many case, do cause major damage to our reefs, sandbanks etcetera.

“While I understand the captain of this vessel may be inexperienced in navigating these waters I feel the anchorage level should be moved further into the ocean.

“Bahamians are reactive people by nature, but we should not wait for something worse than this to occur like an oil tanker running aground close to the shoreline before we do something or have some rules in place for how many feet away from the current anchorage a ship must be before dropping its anchor.

“Incidents like this is happening too frequent so something must be done,” she said.

“While the learned among us in these positions of authority may feel the people of these coastline communities are not up to snuff to understand what is going on or what should be done, we want them to know we understand more than enough to know that we do not want it happening anymore.

“We will find a way to challenge whatever procedures are in place to preserve these waters, reefs, sandbanks etcetera for generations to come.”

A rep of Smit Lamnalco, one of the tug and towing companies participating in the efforts to remove the vessel declared, “We understand residents’ concern, but want the record to reflect that this incident was due to a combination of human error and nature.

“It is believed that the captain of this vessel may not have been familiar with this area and had dropped his anchor a bit too late.

“As a result his anchor did not hold as he expected it to, the vessel ran aground and the winds and the waves helped to push the vessel closer to the shoreline.

“The vessel is sitting in a depth between 12 to 24 meters (40 to 80 feet of water).

“Right now our workers are standing by waiting for the owners of the vessel to decide what course of action they would like to take next which would be pushing off the vessel.

“Once they would have given us the okay, we would come onto  the starboard side of the vessel and try to push it back out however we would have to push it from the stern first where the propellers are located then we would work on the bow.

“Currently there are four tugboats working in this regard two from Smit Lamnalco which was the first responder and two from Svitzer Grand Bahama (tug and towing company).

“Right now the problem here is that this issue has now become an environmental one as even if the owners cannot make up their minds as to what they wish to have happen next, Government officials along with Freeport Harbor Pilots who are also onboard would override the owners’ decision and have the vessel pulled off.

“This is because they cannot just sit out there like that indefinitely.”

While it is unknown whether or not the vessel received any damage to the underside of the boat, the rep was adamant that the tanker be removed and later inspection by diver services or professionals at the Grand Bahama Shipyard would be made to determine what has happened as a result of the Formosa Falcon running aground.

“Incidents like this we hope would never happen but the reality is they do so we are trained to deal with matters like this to be about the best, safest and quickest solutions.

“How long it will take for the tanker to be removed we do not know but we will not move off the scene until everything is properly completed.

“Right now there remains one more hour before the tide comes in (high tide) which will help us further in getting the vessel off however should they decide to push off now while tide is low our tugs would have to work harder in getting the tanker out and this could potentially cause damage to the underside of the vessel,” Smit Lamnalco rep revealed.

For further information on this issue concerned persons should telephone the Ministry of Transport and Aviation.

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