Environment Minister Romauld Ferreira.
As of Friday, September 17, 2021
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The outgoing environment minister says regulations to strengthen ship waste disposal procedures are “ready to go” as the Government awaits a report on the recent invasive beetle controversy.
Romauld Ferreira, speaking to Tribune Business just before the general election, said he had drafted the regulations himself. He added, though, that zoology specialists were still trying to determine precisely what type of beetle species was offloaded, treated and burnt in Freeport in late July.
“We’re still awaiting the entomologist. They weren’t able to find a live specimen to make a conclusion as to what beetle species it is,” Mr Ferreira explained. “The safety protocols they followed, the treated the wood and burnt it, with a view to destroying what was there. They weren’t able to find a live organism, and are trying to find forensic evidence from whatever burrow they were making. That process is still in train.”
The Government had previously said “an inter-agency committee” featuring the Department of Public Prosecutions, Bahamas Customs, the Royal Bahamas Police Force, the Department of Environmental Health Services, the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources, the Office of the Prime Minister, the Department of Forestry, had been formed to investigate the offloading of the beetle-infested waste wood by the Pan Jasmine vessel in late July.
Mr Ferreira, though, said progress had been made in drafting regulations to address the disposal of ship’s waste in The Bahamas. He added that they cover all incidents that may occur when a vessel is docked or anchored in a harbour, as well as ships transiting Bahamian waters like the cruise lines.
“I’m not going to lie to you,” he added. “I have written the draft regulations for that. I have them ready to go. They’re prepared and I’ve written them myself. They’re ready to go.” The now-former minister said the passage of the Ministry of the Environment Act and Department of Environmental Planning and Protection Act (DEPP) had enabled the creation of such regulations, some of which are already in effect such as the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) regulations.
Mr Ferreira said he was most proud of the “dozen” environmental-related laws that had been passed and enacted during his tenure in office, together with an expansion in the number of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and the outsourcing of the New Providence landfill to private sector management that has reduced the number of fires that previously plagued nearby communities.
Tribune Business previously reported how the Pan Jasmine’s shipping agent suggested it would be “exonerated with the right investigation” days after multiple government agencies alleged the infested wood was offloaded without their approval.
Elbert Hepburn, Elnet Maritime’s chief executive, blamed a marine logistics service provider he said failed to properly inform the Government’s Department of Environmental Health Services. He suggested the Government was looking to pin the blame for the controversy on someone, and that Elnet Maritime as a Bahamas-based company and shipping agent represented an easy target.
Voicing optimism that the Asian beetles had been incinerated and destroyed, and pose no threat to Grand Bahama’s forestry product and landscape that is still trying to recover from Dorian’s ravages, Mr Hepburn said the disposal of ship slops (oils), dunnage and other waste had long been part of Freeport’s maritime industry.
With trash often amounting to as much as 10-15 cubic metres, he added that such disposals were regular work features for shipping agents and their sub-contractors plus their sub-contractors. And Mr Hepburn said they were dealing with materials “rejected by the United States” on every single occasion.
Elnet Maritime was contacted to act as the Pan Jasmine’s agent by its owner/operators when it had to bunker or refuel in Freeport. He was asked “en route” if the dunnage (waste wood) could be taken off in Freeport, and contracted Lucayan Maritime Services to perform this task.
The sub-contractor was supposed to obtain the necessary approvals, and make arrangements, with both the Department of Environmental Health Services (DEHS) and Sanitation Services. However, it only did so with the latter so the dunnage could be dumped in the landfill.
The Pan Jasmine arrived off Freeport on Saturday, July 24, and departed on the Monday. Mr Hepburn said he only became aware of the Asian beetle incident three days later on July 29 following the voice notes and messages being issued by Mr Darville.
He responded by apologising to DEHS official, Bertha McPhee-Duncanson, and followed up with Sanitation Services to ensure the wood was properly disposed of and destroyed. However, Mr Hepburn has yet to speak to Lucayan Maritime Services given that there is now an investigation ongoing.
This imbecile appears to have more to say having lost his Seat than when he was an empty vessel of a Minister.
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