With most of the works already completed, the shipwreck salvaging activity is wrapping up as a major success of the Sint Maarten Trust Fund’s Emergency Debris Management Project (EDMP).
By the end of the activity, exactly 139 damaged and/or submerged vessels were removed from Mullet Pond and the Simpson Bay Lagoon and safely decommissioned. This figure is 19 more vessels than the original target of 120. Using enthusiastic local crews, the component also cleaned 10.5 kilometers of the Simpson Bay Lagoon shoreline of storm debris and other forms of trash.
In total, the initiatives got rid of approximately 3,200 metric tons of ferrous (iron-based) scrap metal that was left to rust in these vital waterways. For comparison, this is equal to the weight of 503 adult male African elephants or eight (8) fully loaded Boeing 747 aircraft.
Additionally, the activity has successfully removed about 400 metric tons of non-ferrous scrap metal – such as zinc, copper, and aluminum – as well as 66 forty-foot containers full of other types of waste, such as wood, fiberglass, and contaminated materials.
All waste materials are now in the process of being exported abroad for environmentally friendly reuse or disposal. This is a key aspect of the activity, as one of its overarching goals was to prevent waste from ending up in Sint Maarten’s waste disposal sites. Pending unforeseen logistical delays due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, all remaining waste containers are scheduled to leave the country by the end of March 2022.
Meanwhile, the area on Airport Boulevard that activity supervisor EOS Maritime J.V. and activity contractor KMS N.V. used as a decommissioning yard was returned to the Government of Sint Maarten on December 24, 2021 – a little more than 9 months after beginning operations.
As a capstone to the activity, one of the removed vessels – the 27-meter-long tugboat Marion — will be sunk in Sint Maarten waters to create an artificial reef and dive site. This is expected to take place in the coming months. Personnel of the National Recovery Program Bureau (NRPB), the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT), and the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation are currently collaborating to ensure that the vessel’s sinking is done in the best possible manner.
“This is a perfect example of what we can achieve when we work together for the greater good. We now have a cleaner, safer Simpson Bay Lagoon that all can enjoy. I am extremely proud to see these results and I want to congratulate all the parties involved for this tremendous achievement, from the project teams on down. Truly, a job well done,” said NRPB Director Claret Connor.
Speaking on the successful completion of the activity, Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure (VROMI) Egbert Doran said, “Indeed it is for me, and by extension the people of Sint Maarten, a relief to see that during this exercise the shipwrecks and debris that were in our waters due to recent storms, as well as the storms of many years ago, were able to be removed. We are making progress in our quest to keep our island clean, which is of extreme importance to this Ministry. Together we have a joint responsibility to do our part, individually and as a people, to ensure that we protect the environment and maintain clean shores and waters.”
TEATT Minister Roger Lawrence is pleased that the Simpson Bay Lagoon was successfully cleaned of shipwrecks and storm debris in time for the peak of the 2021/2022 yachting season. “The removal of the shipwreck and storm debris is a welcomed sight, as it improves our overall product experience for our marine guests. The Ministry is aiming to continue to work with the marine sector in developing the sector, as it contributes significantly to our economy. Also with a cleared lagoon, we are now in the position to look ahead as well as a putting together a framework to ensure sustainability in this regard, to prevent the same situation from reoccurring,” said Minister Lawrence.
Reflecting on the collaboration between the Government of the Netherlands, the World Bank, and the Government of Sint Maarten, Dutch Representative in Sint Maarten Chris Johnson is also happy that the Trust Fund is realizing so many benefits for Sint Maarten and its people. “At this stage we can truly see the direct impact that this cooperation has had on many aspects of life here on Sint Maarten. We are helping people, helping businesses, and assisting those in need. These actions have a huge impact on both the economy and the environment,” said Dutch Representative Johnson.
The Sint Maarten Trust Fund is financed by the Government of the Netherlands, managed by the World Bank, and implemented by the NRPB on behalf of the Government of Sint Maarten.