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Urgent action needed to extend lifeguard season

A matter of urgency: Michael Fahy argues that, at the very least, a lifeguard light service should be introduced on the island’s beaches as more cruise ships arrive earlier and later in the year (File Photograph)

Recently there was a tragic death at Horseshoe Bay. The Royal Gazette reported that: “A cruise ship visitor died suddenly while at a Southampton beach and that police officers were called to Horseshoe Bay at around 3pm to assist several people struggling in the water. When the police arrived, they heard that a man had swam out to help a young girl, also a cruise ship visitor, who was struggling in the tide, but soon got into difficulty and also needed help. A woman then entered the water and helped both swimmers to shore. The man appeared to be unconscious once brought to the shore, and life-saving efforts were immediately undertaken. Sadly he died.”

I suggest the death of the visitor and the near drowning of the young girl was possibly preventable had a lifeguard been on duty. It was only due to pure luck that both visitors did not die thanks to a brave passer-by who brought both guests to shore.

However, per the Government website: “The Bermuda Lifeguard Service works to ensure the safety of swimmers on Horseshoe, John Smith’s, Clearwater and Turtle Beaches. Lifeguards are posted when the beaches are open — from May 1 to October 31 on Horseshoe Beach and from May 24 to Labour Day on the other beaches. The Bermuda Lifeguard Service maintains a roster of 12 full-time lifeguards and reserve staff.”

The big but here is that the Dockyard cruise ship season really begins in earnest in March and really ends in November save for a few occasional visits in the intervening months – see the schedule here.

In summary, in March the Norwegian Getaway was in Dockyard for three visits with a total of 11,889 passengers across the three visits. The Marella Explorer 2 visited once with 1,814 passengers. The Vista arrived once with 4,997 passengers. The Celebrity Constellation visited once with 2,170 passengers and the Norwegian Gem with 2,150 passengers visited once. So, in total there were 23,020 cruise passengers (not to mention crew). In total ships were in port for a total of about 12 days between them.

In April, the Norwegian Getaway will again be in Dockyard for three visits with 11,889 passengers across the three visits. The Norwegian Gem will visit four times for a total of 8,600 passengers. The Marina will visit once with 1,328 passengers. The Norwegian Escape will visit once with 4,266 passengers. The Nieuw Statendam will visit once with 4,173 passengers.

The Norwegian Joy will visit three times for a total of 12,750 passengers. The Seven Seas Grandeur will visit once with 750 passengers. The Celebrity Equinox will visit once with 2,850 passengers. The Island Princess will visit once with 2,214 passengers. The Celebrity Silhouette will visit once with 2,886 passengers. The MSC Divina will visit once with 3,502 passengers. The Carnival Glory will visit once with 2,980 passengers and the MSC Meraviglia will visit once with at least 4,341 passengers.

This will be a total of 62,529 visitors over approximately 31 days between them. Again, these numbers don’t include the thousands of crew members.

Currently the lifeguards finish on October 31, 2024, but in November 2024 the following ships are to visit Dockyard over approximately 15 days: The Celebrity Apex will visit once with 3,405 passengers. The Vision of the Seas will visit once with 2,119 passengers. The Celebrity Ascent will visit once with 2,918 passengers. The Norwegian Breakaway will visit twice with a total of 7,926 passengers. The Zuiderdam, Celebrity Silhouette, and Celebrity Equinox will all visit once with 2,272, 2,886, 2,850 passengers respectively and the Norwegian Prima will visit twice with 6,198 passengers. So, in total Dockyard will see 30,574. Again, crew figures are not included.

This means that tens of thousands of tourists are taken to Horseshoe Bay via taxi, mini bus and buses during March, April and November. Chairs, umbrellas and other equipment is available for rent for at least part of this time, the beach is advertised as the place to go by the Bermuda Tourism Authority and Horseshoe Bay has consistently ranked in the top ten most beautiful beaches in the world.

So, given this is a tourist mecca for our cruise visitors why are we not, at the very least, providing a “lifeguard light” service commencing in March to coincide with the expanding cruise ship season?

I am not suggesting that the visitor’s untimely death was the fault of anyone. However, a lifeguard team in a cordoned area at Horseshoe Bay should be put in place going forward as a matter of urgency for March, April and November rather than no lifeguards at all. It seems negligent to have no one on duty.

We rely heavily on the taxes from the expanded cruise season so at the very least we should do our utmost to keep our visitors safe. Bermudians may not swim before May 24, but visitors certainly do. Failing to act may very well be the difference between life and death. Bermuda Government, over to you.

On another note, I urge all Bermuda residents to support BermudAir. It is a young airline and there will be teething problems. However, moaning at length on Maj’s List is not going to help. In my experience the staff have been courteous and helpful and when there have been delays or cancellations, they have gone beyond what most other airlines would do to communicate and assist. Westchester is fantastic for a visit to New York City and far more pleasurable than JFK in terms of ease of check in and arrival. An Uber or Lyft will cost the same as a taxi from JFK and takes about the same amount of time to get to Manhattan.

My recent experience from Baltimore was also excellent. So please stop moaning. Stop worrying about your air miles with other airlines for the time being. BermudAir are taking a chance on us, so take a chance on them. You won’t regret it.

Michael Fahy was the Government Senate Leader and Cabinet minister in the One Bermuda Alliance government from 2012 to 2017. Share your ideas and views at opedfahy@gmail.com

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Published April 08, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated April 07, 2024 at 3:17 pm)

Urgent action needed to extend lifeguard season

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