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Cleaning up one wreck at a time

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A have-a-go crew of sailors is to help tackle Bermuda's build-up of derelict boats one wreck at a time.

The news came as the Government delivered an ultimatum yesterday to the owners of 17 abandoned boats scattered around the island.

Officials warned the boats will be scrapped unless they were claimed within 30 days.

The Government said on Monday the deserted boats posed a danger to shipping, as well as being a blight on the shoreline.

Two wrecks elsewhere have already been raised from the water and towed elsewhere for disposal, but the job was done by an international team of visiting Dutch sailors Martijn Dijkstra, Paul Meerbach and Benjamin Eman, with their American shipmate, Miguel Serrano.

The group hauled up a sunken sailboat from Ely's Harbour at the West End, followed by a derelict fishing boat from Mill Creek, Pembroke, on January 26 and 28 respectively.

Mr Dijkstra is no stranger to the work.

A regular visitor to Bermuda, he helped pull an unsightly wreck from Paradise Lakes last July.

He used his own boat, Prinses Mia, to winch and then pump the wrecks.

In a statement provided by local friend Michelle Lindo, the group suggested that the Government requires boat owners to buy insurance to cover the cost of wreck removal.

The submerged sailboat was returned to its owner, while the fishing boat was taken to an approved site off Dockyard for sinking wrecks.

The group said: “Sinking a wreck is not the best solution, but it is not the worst. They stay in one piece and attract fish. Then with coral growth it becomes its own ecosystem. Wrecks are tourist attractions.”

Their job was made easier by the absence of an engine inside the wreck of the fishing vessel as the oil inside would have posed an environmental hazard and would have needed to be removed.

The group said many of the wrecks along the island's shores “could be restored and brought back to life”.

They said: “If the owners are not able to fix them up, restoring an old boat can be a middle or high-school project.”

The group said it hoped to return next year for a further cleanup.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said that recovery of boats by their owners or by contractors was encouraged.

She added that removal and disposal had to be carried out in line with environmental protection rules.

The spokeswoman said that safety measures included the use of an absorbent boom in case of fuel spills.

She added: “The Ministry of Public Works provides a detailed description of their waste management facilities and the types of wastes that can be received at each, for example hazmat, fuels, batteries, wood, metal, plastic GRP and so on.”

The spokeswoman said that recovered boats cannot be sunk anywhere at sea and that a licence was required.

She added: “This licence is provided by the minister responsible for the environment and affords certain conditions related to appropriate cleanup prior to sinking as well as disposal location, water depth and so on.”

Thar she goes: mariners Miguel Serrano, left, and Martijn Dijkstra on board the wreck of a sailboat being towed free from Mills Creek (Photograph supplied)
Paul Meerbach, Martijn Dijkstra and Benjamin Eman watch as a derelict fishing boat, stripped of oil and other pollutants, is sent back to the bottom at a designated sinking site (Photograph supplied)
Miguel Serrano opens port holes on the wreck of a sailboat, readying it for sinking (Photograph supplied)
Miguel Serrano on board a wrecked fishing boat while Martijn Dijkstra secures the line for towing (Photograph supplied)

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Published February 07, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated February 07, 2018 at 7:10 am)

Cleaning up one wreck at a time

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