Head of the local Boat Owners Association Captain John Howes is calling on the government to pay attention to the island’s major access problem.
Responding to the current challenge of rough seas which on Wednesday and Thursday stopped the ferry and other ships from being able to dock in Little Bay, the boater shared the following:
“I am calling on HMG/Dfid & GOM to PLEASE look more attentively at Montserrat’s Major Sea Access Problem!..
About five or so years ago, DFID offered the Montserrat Government 25 Million Pounds Sterling to build a breakwater at Little Bay. However those monies were turned down then by the then Government.
“It was proposed instead, to build a new purpose built Deep Water Port at Carr’s Bay.
“DFID & GOM… If this NEW PORT at Carr’s Bay is too expensive, some 150 plus million US dollars. Please let us look more closely at building a Breakwater at Little Bay as soon as possible. The Little Bay Breakwater and Reclaiming of some shore line, would cost about $75 Million USD. Half of the proposed Port at Carr`s Bay.
“Now in the past few weeks, the ferry could not run for a few days, because of the lack of a Safe Harbour protection from rough Northerly seas alongside the Wharf, costing the GOM several thousands of dollars in Hotel & Taxi fees, plus the Charter of Fly Montserrat & SVG Airlines.
“Now with the event of our St. Patrick’s Festival starting today, there are several hundreds of Montserratians journeying home to celebrate this festival, and meet friends and family.
“However, the ferry cannot run again, as the Northerly seas are coming over the top of the wharf at Little Bay. So now our people are now stuck in Antigua, just 26 miles from Home.
“Can you imagine the stress, our people must feel!, and their monies which would have been spent in Montserrat, is now being spent in Antigua?
The Access Coordinator is frantically trying to Charter a Larger Ferry, capable of coming along side Port Plymouth, as the present Ferry is too Low/small to allow the Passenger’s to disembark there.
“The Montserrat government will now have to pay a huge sums of money to the two airlines, to shuttle those Montserratians to get home once again, in time for the St. Patrick`s Festivities.
“Regretfully in the past few weeks, we have also lost a fishing boat, which was also equipped with two seine nets, two engines, and other fishing equipment’s, valued well over $125,000 with No form of Compensation to the owner.
“The owner did not have any insurance, as NO insurance company will insure the local boats here, Simply BECAUSE.. we do not have Safe Harbour protection.
“It has been almost 20 years with this Temporary Port and Wharf, so until we build a Safe Harbour, we will continue to have boats thrown ashore or break free and go adrift, due to high winds and rough seas.
“Over the past years, several fishing boats, and a few yachts have been thrown ashore, by rough seas that spring up from time to time, most have been a total write off.
“Certain Cargo ships will NOT take cargo destined for Montserrat, due to the small/short; shallow water at the wharf, with NO protection for their ships, as they can be damaged along side the Little Bay whrf, due to the surging seas, breaking mooring lines and structural damage to the actual ship.
“If they have to anchor off shore to wait for calmer seas, those ships lose money every day they are not working.
“When they leave their cargo to be trans-shipped from St. Martin, this increases the cost to us here in Montserrat.
“How long do we have to wait for proper sea access, our whole island is suffering from a lack of Safe Harbour?
“Yachtsmen are Warned, NOT come to here. So they simply bypass Montserrat entirely, by doing this we lose, the Port dues; Taxis`; Restaurants’ and Grocery stores all lose valuable foreign exchange dollars.
“Basically, due to the fact that we DO NOT HAVE A SAFE HARBOUR, and SAFE ANCHORAGE!
“Our Coast Guard vessel is presently on shore, due to a structural problem, so we DO NOT have a vessel, which could assist any stranded vessels, or do Search and Rescue missions.
“I am calling on DFID and our Minister of Comms & Works to tackle this Safe Harbour & Access Problem, as soon as possible!
“I am also calling on the Governor to ask HMG to get a good quality larger Coast Guard Patrol Vessel, as soon as possible.
“A Safe Harbour, with a Breakwater COULD be constructed at Little Bay, for about half of what it would cost at Carr’s Bay. By pushing /reclaiming land between the North side of the Wharf and Rendezvous’ Bluff, then starting the Breakwater on the end of Rendezvous’ Bluff extending it 1,083 feet Southward, to just past outside where the Coast Guard Vessel normally moors’, would allow Protection and a Safe Harbour for about 16 Yachts and 26 of Montserrat’ Fishing boats, plus space for the Police Coast Guard Vessel, between the Wharf and Rendezvous Bluff.
“On the Inner side of the breakwater, will have ample space and be reserved for visiting Cruise Ships, allowing for up to two ships tied up there at the same time..
“The existing Wharf could be extended out about 240 feet, which would be ample length and depth to accommodate all visiting cargo vessels..
“Presently, cruise ships have to anchor off shore and tender their passengers` ashore (Weather Permitting) to come along side the steps on the Wharf.
“If the seas at Little Bay Wharf is too rough, the passengers` cannot land!, therefore about twenty buses plus and Taxis` will Not get any much needed tourist dollars, the Montserrat Customs and Port miss out too, on the Thousands in Dues and charges also.. Souvenir’s sellers will also lose out too, the island economy will miss out on much needed dollars.
“This Breakwater, will also cause the shoreline at the Little Bay Beach to be calm almost all the time. Little Bay`s Beach is now our most frequently used Sea Bathing beach. The launching of boats at the boat ramp will be calm, allowing for launching and pulling up of boats, without worrying about being swept into the rocks, which are beside the boat ramp.
“Please, let us all call on all of our Ministers of Government, to push extra hard to get this Little Bay Port Development started as soon as possible.”