Since Hurricane Irma, wrecked yachts have been partially submerged near Village Cay Marina and several other locations around the territory. (Photo: RUSHTON SKINNER)

Rotting boats clogging harbours are one of the most common visual reminders of the 2017 hurricanes, and a new effort to get them removed is now under way, Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley said during a recent House of Assembly meeting.

He provided the update in response to questions from opposition member Julian Fraser, who drew attention to the derelict vessels remaining in Sea Cows Bay. Mr. Fraser also noted that the removal process was a hot debate topic along the last election campaign season and sought an update from the premier.

In response, Dr. Wheatley said during the Sept. 5 HOA meeting that government “currently is in discussions with various entities to remove the yachts and ship them overseas.”

However, before that process can progress, he said officials need an updated register of derelict vessels in order to estimate the cost.

“The [Recovery and Development Agency] has engaged a consultant to update the register,” he said. “Once that exercise is completed, we will immediately thereafter issue a request for proposals for the removal of the vessels from our waters.”

Pre-Irma problems

Even before Irma, derelict vessels posed a problem for the territory, as when Hurricane Earl tossed several against the shorelines in 2010.

After Irma, hundreds of wrecked boats were recovered by private salvagers, and the removal of around 200 that remained initially was slated to be the RDA’s biggest project to date. In 2019, the agency began the process of selecting a contractor to start breaking down boats across the territory.

But the RDA later cancelled the tendering process, citing “elements of the project that affect the ability to progress into the next stage of the procurement process.”

In late 2019, the then-Ministry of Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration hired a contractor as a stopgap measure to at least do an “emergency cleanup” of Trellis Bay, prompted largely by complaints from tourists and business owners.

However, then-NRLI Minister Vincent Wheatley stressed at the time that the RDA would have to take charge of the largescale removal.

This month in the House of Assembly, Mr. Fraser expressed his disappointment with the delayed removal of boats from Sea Cows Bay.

Dr. Wheatley replied, “We certainly regret that is has taken longer than it really should for this process to move forward, but I have confidence that it will move forward.”