Jan 18, 2023

Sunken Ship Off The Coast of South Abaco Is Spilling Toxic Chemicals Into Bahamian Waters

We demand that the government enforce the environmental laws of The Bahamas, which they met in place. The Environmental Planning & Protection Act 2019 and The Ministry of Environment Act 2019, empowers the Attorney General and the Minister of Environment to act when these environmental incidents happen. Additionally, they provide for up to 30 million dollars to be levied in fines for each incident. These laws are based on the legal principle “the polluter pays”. The sinking of MV Onego off the coast of South Abaco is the second such environmental incident where this administration so far has refused to enforce the countries environmental laws and impose fines.

The first incident occurred in Exuma when 30,000 gallons of toxic diesel fuel oil was released directly into the sea, by MT Arabian, a Sun Oil/FOCOL contractor. To date it appears that the government stubbornly refuses to enforce our laws and impose the fines commensurate with the environmental damage caused. Just Like in the first incident, MV Onego is spilling chemicals directly into the waters of South Abaco. This time instead of diesel, heavy fuel oil and ferix are being released. Ferix is used as a fertilizer and for water treatment. Both chemicals are potentially deadly to marine life and shoreline birds. What makes this situation so worrisome is that in addition to spilling chemicals, the vessel itself will cause physical damage and severe breakage to any stony corals in its wake. The government continues to follow the abysmal environmental track record established by previous PLP administrations.

One only must recall the month-long fire at the then city dump and the Rubis Marathon oil spill. In both incidents it was a PLP administration that kept secret information and reports that were vital to the lives, health and well-being of impacted communities and Bahamians.

Thankfully we do not have to contend with fires at the City Dump, as the FNM pursued policies which fixed the problem, resulting in its transformation into a landfill. Instead, what we contend with, is the government’s refusal to enforce the environmental laws enacted by the FNM in 2019. The Environmental Planning and Protection Act made environmental malfeasance punishable by up to 30 million in fines.

We demand that the Attorney General explain if he has or why he has not instructed legal action be commenced against the owners of the MT Arabian and MV Onego for environmental damage. This administration track record on environment continues to deteriorate rapidly. Its bad judgement and inadequate due diligence may have already jeopardized 300 million dollars of our coastal assets by tying them up with the FTX exchange.

To date the Prime Minister has not clarified what the facts are. The country now stands to lose up to 60 million dollars in uncollected fines because of this administration’s failure to act. A repeated pattern has emerged; environmental offenders get off free to the detriment of the Public Treasury. We remind Prime Minister Davis that environmental responsibility goes beyond speeches and travel opportunities. We call on him to back up the environmental pledges he made when he led a delegation of possibly 80 to Egypt.

To date, no information on the commencement of legal action by the Attorney General has been forthcoming. This is remarkable given his proclivity for issuing statements. We have not heard a single word from the Minister of Environment who Davis appears to have marginalized. We demand action and accountability by the Prime Minister, Attorney General, the Minister of Environment and the Minister with responsibility for Marine Resources.

The Hon Michael C Pintard

Leader of His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition Leader of the Free National Movement

January 15, 2023

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