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BEST not in favour of sea lanes options

An environmental group has stated it does not back any of three approaches to changing the sea lanes into Bermuda to allow bigger ships to dock.

And Stuart Hayward, head of the Bermuda Environmental and Sustainability Taskforce (BEST) said that “no change” should be an option for an environmental impact assessment (EIA) into deepening and widening the lanes off St George's.

Mr Hayward said: “BEST is not at this time favouring any of the options proposed so far. However, a proper EIA should examine all alternatives.”

And he added: “In the same way that we have, until recently at least, prohibited the importation of oversized vehicles for our roads, we need to be prepared to view some oversized cruise ships as being too big for Bermuda.

“Sometimes the penalties outweigh all the claimed benefits and we need to know that.

“Retaining the status quo is a legitimate option that indeed ‘mirrors best practice' and should not be excluded from examination.”

Mr Hayward was speaking after Government announced it had appointed Bermuda Environmental Consulting (BEC) to carry out the impact assessment on three proposals.

These are dredging and widening the North Channel, which will also involve the removal of coral reefs, extensive dredging of the South Channel or realignment of the South Channel, which will also involve major dredging.

The EIA was announced by Government earlier this week, and a spokeswoman said the move was voluntary and designed to ensure adherence to the highest standards.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Public Works said all three proposals would involve some dredging work in The Narrows — part of the channel off St George's which allows ships to pass through the Island's reefs.

Mr Hayward added that BEST was “cautiously pleased” at the decision to have the proposals studied in advance of any changes.

He said that BEST had always upheld the UK/Bermuda Environment Charter provision that wide-ranging probes should be carried out on “major projects and/or major projects likely to have a major environmental impact.”

Mr Hayward added: “This project is major and cannot avoid a major intrusion into the marine environment, so an environmental impact assessment/environmental impact statement should be considered an essential and mandatory exercise.

“We commend the Government for making an EIA the pre-eminent step in its decision-making process for the shipping channels.”

And he said: “We have a high degree of confidence in the appointment of Bermuda Environmental Consultants to conduct the EIA. BEC have impressed us with their conscientious approach to environmental assessments.

“In our experience, their work has been thorough, judicious and most importantly, reliable.

“This does not mean that we will automatically be in full acceptance of their conclusions. However, their lead-off moves of seeking public input and meeting with stakeholders are encouraging.”

The Public Works spokeswoman said the first stage of the EIA would involve “environmental scoping” to “define the issues and studies that must be done to ensure that adequate information is available to enable effective, evidence-based decisions to be made.

“The EIA will look at both the natural environment and socio-economic impacts. Stakeholder consultation to ensure that adequate consideration is given to the concerns and aspirations of all affected parties is an essential part of the process.”

She added that the consulting firm would meet regulators, shipping operators and clients, including local businesses and environmental groups.

It will also hold town hall-style meetings, open house sessions and have a special website, which can accept written submissions.

The first open house will be held at the Anglican Cathedral Hall on Hamilton's Church Street from 11am to 3pm on Tuesday, March 18.

Town hall meetings will be held on Tuesday, April 1 at the Cathedral Hall between 6pm and 7.30pm, at Dockyard's Heritage Wharf Terminal on Thursday, April 3 between the same times.

A third meeting will be held in St George's in mid-April, although details have still to be confirmed.

The website can be found at channelstudy.info.

The Norwegian Breakaway berthed at Kings Wharf as the AIDALuna makes her way along North Shore. (photo by Glenn Tucker)

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Published March 12, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated March 12, 2014 at 3:37 pm)

BEST not in favour of sea lanes options

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