Six months after warning owners to remove their derelict boats cluttering various fisheries complexes across the island or risk having the vessels destroyed, Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey, has begun to make good on his word.
This morning five of the 45 vessels crowding the Bridgetown Fish Market were removed and destroyed with more set to meet the same fate in two months, when the period of owner-notification has elapsed.
Speaking to reporters during the demolition process, Humphrey explained that the boats were not only preventing active fisherman from accessing the dry dock facility, but they also posed a health risk as many of them had become home to vagrants.
“The state of this market and others is pretty shameful and the fact that there are people living in some of the derelict boats and old ice containers speaks to two things. Firstly, there are people living below the radar for whatever reason and as a Government we need to reach them and show that we care. The other thing is that we have to take care of these Government premises. This market is loaded with derelict boats and that is not healthy,” said Humphrey.
The Minister explained that while Government was concentrating on clean up, emphasis is also being placed on legislation to plug loopholes in the system. He explained that there is a need to change the definition of derelict, as currently it only refers to vessels that can no longer float.
“I have a view that more boats should be removed but there is a process and we have to respect the process. The definitions of derelict suggest that the boat must not be able to float if placed in the water. So we are looking at legislation to correct some of these wrongs and we would be in position to strengthen the hand of the Chief Fisheries Officer to remove some of these boats that shouldn’t even be here,” he said, noting that some of the boats have been at that facility for more than ten years.
However, Humphrey did not offer much detail about the full extent of the changes to the laws but made it clear that the new legislation will come before the end of the year.
“The legislation has to change and before the end of this year you are going to see new legislation brought to Parliament that addresses concerns related to the use of the boatyard, as well as issues relating to fishing habits and penalties for certain indiscretions… As it stands, if we attempt to remove a boat people always run to the boatyard and pretend to be painting or they pretend to be changing a piece of board. Those things have to stop because you can’t have a boat for ten years in the boat yard and occupying space that others need,” the Minister lamented.
Humphrey added, “We have a situation of persons treating the market like it is a junk yard. It is a privilege to be able to put your boat in a Government facility and be assured that it would be safe.”