With several marine and dive tourism stakeholders in attendance, the National Recovery Program Bureau (NRPB) and the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation held a consultation session at Carl’s Unique Inn in Cole Bay on Friday, April 1, 2022, to discuss the creation of an artificial reef and dive site in Sint Maarten’s territorial waters.
Under a specific activity of the Sint Maarten Trust Fund’s Emergency Debris Management Project (EDMP), some 139 damaged vessels were removed from the Simpson Bay Lagoon and safely decommissioned in 2021. Together with contractor KMS N.V. and contract supervisor EOS Maritime J.V., the NRPB (as the implementing agency) completed this activity with support from the Government of Sint Maarten and the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation. As a capstone to this successful activity, the project will give one of the vessels a new life as an artificial reef and dive site.
From a selection of suitable shipwrecks, the 27-meter-long tugboat Marion was selected for the task because of her sound structural integrity, manageable size, and dense steel hull. The combination of these factors makes the Marion an ideal candidate to be colonized by soft corals, sponges, barnacles, and marine plants. If prepared correctly and sunk in the right environment, the Marion can quickly become a thriving ecosystem, thereby enriching a wide variety of aquatic flora and fauna.
Over the past several years, the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation has noted an alarming decline of local coral reefs. This phenomenon has not only endangered the animals that depend on coral reefs for food and shelter, but it has also limited the number of available dive sites for the recreational diving industry. The sinking of the Marion will thus be a small step toward the preservation of both marine life and Sint Maarten’s tourism product. Barring unanticipated delays, the Marion is expected to be sunk near the end of the second quarter of 2022.
During the stakeholder session, NRPB and the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation presented the proposed plan of action for the Marion’s sinking. Following World Bank safeguard policies, vigorous safeguard instruments have been developed to mitigate all foreseeable social and environmental risks.
The presentations were followed by a roundtable discussion, where stakeholders primarily discussed a suitable location for the artificial reef/dive site. The stakeholders also posed questions about the project and provided feedback on the proposed plan of action. These discussions provided meaningful input, which will be considered in this project activity. The NRPB and the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation thanks the stakeholders for attending the consultation session and providing their invaluable input.