MSC Poesia runs aground; Tourists still receive warm Bahamian welcome
By Cleopatra Murphy
Freeport News Reporter
The anticipated grand arrival of the MSC Poesia was marred after the 93,300 ton cruise ship ran aground on the reef some two miles off Grand Bahama around 6:00 a.m. Saturday morning.
Four tugboats were kept busy during the ordeal attempting to stablilize the vessel and pull it off the reef.
According to boat captains that were in the Port Lucaya area Saturday, the ship docked in some 14 feet of water during low tide.
This was heavily criticized as several persons noted that the vessel should not have been docked in less than 30 feet of water.
The bulbous bow of the ship, which they said should always be under water, was protruding above water.
Claims were made that the vessel was not equipped with a depth finder to help the pilot ascertain how deep the water was while bringing the MSC Poesia in, however, it was noted that the advanced equipment on the vessel should have been able to measure water depth.
Saturday's visit to Grand Bahama was the ship's inaugural trip to the island and some 4,500 people were on board.
Three thousand of those people were passengers and some 1,500 were crew members on the vessel.
When The Freeport News made it's initial trip by boat to the Poesia, divers were in the water attempting to assess the damages the boat had received.
Shortly after 11:00 a.m. several boats were lowered from the ship with crew members on-board who made their way inland to prepare for passengers when they were allowed to get off.
President of H. Forbes Charter Services, Hadley Forbes, who was contacted to provide transportation for guests prior to the ship's arrival commented on the morning's mishap, noting that it was unfortunate it happened in Grand Bahama, particularly at a time when efforts are being made to get the island's ailing economy back on solid footing.
"For this to happen is a big setback for the cruise industry right here in Freeport," he noted. "All the ports I've ever been to in the world, whenever the ship enters into the waters of the country, a pilot of the country normally is on-board the ship to bring it into port. I don't know what happened with this one. Something drastically went wrong."
Forbes noted that the island needs more calls like the MSC Poesia's arrival to invigorate local economy.
From what The Freeport News understands, a Bahamian pilot was on board the vessel and may have been responsible for causing the mishap.
It left several persons questioning the security of the pilot's job taking in the fact that the ship's arrival had been much anticipated.
Some persons expressed concerns as to what damage the reef may have sustained because of the ship's running aground.
Some vendors in the area had been looking forward to the boost in business that was expected with the arrival of the MSC Poesia.
Port Lucaya straw vendor, Harriet Clarke said she felt bad that the incident occurred.
She noted that vendors had anticipated the ship's arrival because business for them runs in cycles with some days better than others.
"We were looking forward for them (tourists)?to come ashore and spend a little, because one time ago they used to have the Red Boat and the Dolphin and business used to be great," Clarke said.
She said she hoped what happened does not hurt the chances of the vessel coming into the Port Lucaya area again.
"I hope they come back again, but I hope it doesn't damage the situation for another boat to come and try dock in the back there," Clarke said.
Dorothy Goldsmith, proprietor of Granny's House noted that she was just pleased the guests made it on shore safely, adding that she was also hoping to secure some business.
"Everything is good and we are very pleased that we have all these people. I hope that they do stop and I hope that they do spend as well, but I see they are all going for the beach, so that's their first priority," Goldsmith said. "We welcome them happily and hope that they leave some of their dollars here with us."
Husband, Terry Goldsmith also added that he was impressed with the effort put forth by the Port Lucaya Marketplace to welcome the MSC Poesia and its guests.
"We are pleased with the welcome mat that's gone out and we ourselves the straw market people and especially Granny's House are offering special offers to them and we hope that they will come back if we give them a warm Bahamian welcome," Goldsmith said.
The vessel was scheduled to leave at 6:00 p.m. Saturday, but did not leave until much later in the evening when the tugboats were able to pull the ship off the reef during high tide.
The Freeport News was not able to reach officials from the MSC Poesia up to press time.
The plaque exchange that was scheduled to take place on-board the ship was cancelled, but the Port Lucaya Marketplace was alive with entertainment for the tourists.
© 2012 The Freeport News