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Call to clear wharf for airport activity

The trawler Esperanza, currently under water at the East End, at the time of its purchase in Florida by local entrepreneur Jepheth Newton (Photograph supplied)

Heavy materials and equipment for the airport redevelopment are due to start arriving next month at the East End.

The move is expected to bring fresh activity to Marginal Wharf in St David’s, where finance minister Bob Richards said “the docks will have to be cleared”.

“The main loading port will be St George’s, so that we don’t have the challenge of bringing these materials across the Causeway,” Mr Richards said.

A Public Works spokeswoman described the move as logistically sound, considering the proximity of LF Wade International Airport, where the new terminal is to be built.

A smaller matter is the presence of the Niobe Corinthian, the defunct casino ship earmarked for sinking as an artificial reef, which must be shifted to a mooring to make way.

But another issue spells disaster for Jepheth Newton, whose trawler Esperanza went under near the dock after last October’s hit from Hurricane Nicole.

Informed this month that the boat must be moved before April, Mr Newton’s chances of salvaging it have grown slimmer still.

“It’s sad,” said the Esperanza’s owner, who will be formally issued tomorrow with a wreck removal notice.

Mr Newton had been pursuing his own avenues for raising the boat, when he was told on March 10 that the Harbourmaster had been instructed “to have the Esperanza moved and to bill you”, according to e-mails seen by this newspaper.

“The new airport is supposed to work for all Bermudians, but this is going to take a hard-working Bermudian and knock him back to square zero with no boat and a $30,000 bill.”

Buying and refurbishing the 92ft vessel in June 2013 marked the culmination of a dream for Mr Newton, who describes himself as an IT programmer from a humble background who hoped to live and run a business of his own off the boat.

In 2015 he brought the vessel home, but subsequently lost his job and could not cover insurance for the $60,000 craft.

It weathered other storms — but Nicole, which blew from a more easterly angle than expected, drove the Esperanza against Marginal Wharf where its stern was driven against the Niobe Corinthian. The boat took on water, and sank, intact.

Mr Newton pointed to correspondence with the Harbourmaster in which he proposed raising the boat himself after securing part-time jobs.

He subsequently ordered air bags to the tune of $8,000 to lift it off the bottom, only to be told that local authorities had been ordered to remove his boat and charge him.

A meeting has been scheduled for next week, and Mr Newton said he feared that his vessel, which he believes can be towed off site for a quick restoration, could end up at the dump.

“I just hope we can come to some kind of compromise,” he said. “I can’t let this happen. I’ll sit on the boat and protest if I have to.”