Wreck at Rum Point needs to be salvaged

| 18/09/2016

Who is responsible for removing a sunken boat at Rum Point? There’s a 25ft boat that sunk while anchored off Rum Point in about four feet of water and it’s been there for over two months! Children have been playing on it, and we’ve noticed it’s starting to fall apart with all sorts of bits poking out of it. I’m sure it’s degraded now to the point that it will be much harder to dispose of. This is a prime tourist spot and it’s shameful that it hasn’t been taken care of. Apparently the Department of Environment are aware, but I guess too busy to do something? Embarrased to take guests there.

Auntie’s answer: Your question could not be timelier. Earlier this month, the Port Authority issued a statement on who is responsible for abandoned and derelict vessels, which you can read here. I will deal with the question generally and then discuss your specific query.

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The Port Authority, along with the Maritime Authority and Department of Environment (DoE), clarified government’s position on salvaging any abandoned vessels, which are wrecks that have sunk and derelict vessels which are in imminent danger of sinking.

A DoE official explained that the primary message of the statement is that “it is the responsibility of the vessel’s owner to salvage their sunken vessel rather than a government agency using public funds to fix the problem”.

In addition, under the Merchant Shipping Law (2011 Revision), the Port Authority is given the power to deal with wrecked vessels that have been abandoned. The official referred to four vessels sunk and abandoned around the island and said the chief environmental health officer will issue those owners with abatement notices under the Public Health Law, which considers the vessels a statutory public nuisance and requires owners to salvage the boats within a specified timeframe or face penalties.

Failure to comply within the time and date specified may result in being found guilty of an offence and liable to a fine of $500 for each offence and an additional $50 for each day during which the offence is continued after the date specified in the notice.

He said that the DoE “raised concerns about vessels that are derelict and at risk of sinking as it is far better to prevent a problem than try to fix one after the damage has been done. Some of these vessels are too large to be easily or inexpensively disposed of on shore so it will be tempting for the owners to scuttle the vessel at sea.”

The official then cautioned the Merchant Shipping (Marine Pollution) Law requires the vessel owner to obtain a permit from the DoE director before disposing of any objects at sea. The department has permitted scuttling vessels in the past with conditions for sanitising the boat and specifying the location of disposal. Anyone who wants to apply for a permit to scuttle a vessel should contact the deputy director – operations and enforcement by email or calling 949-8469.

Now, as to the vessel in Rum Point, he explained, as you indicated, the DoE has known of that boat “for some time and our enforcement staff contacted the owner as soon as he was identified requesting that he arranged immediate salvage. He gave assurance that he would do so, but obviously that did not occur. Unfortunately, under our law, we have no jurisdiction to take legal action unless the sinking results in pollution or damage to marine life, which was not the case in this incident”.

It sounds to me (and I want to stress this is my clearly non-professional opinion) that we have waded into jurisdictional muddy waters here. According to the DoE, because the vessel in question does not pose an immediate environmental threat, the department seemingly cannot take action, but the Port Authority statement referenced above addresses sunken wrecks or vessels about to sink, which appear to include the boat you are asking about. And the statement indicates boats in those categories legally justify the issue of an abatement notice, to be served by the chief environmental health officer.

The situation is confusing at best. The only thing I can suggest at this point is to contact the Port Authority for clarification and/or to lodge a complaint. Here is their email or you can call 949-2055.

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Category: Ask Auntie

Comments (9)

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  1. Al Catraz says:

    If the kids enjoy playing on it, then simply charge an admission fee. The older visitors seem to enjoy visiting the Kittiwake. Bill it as the shallowest of Cayman’s reknown shallow water wreck dives – one which does not even require a snorkel!

  2. Anonymous says:

    One of Rum Points owners also owns the cruise ship tender company. Maybe he can find it in his heart to remove it seeing as he wants to save our seas from the cruise ship dock…?

    • Anonymous says:

      Would he have legal rights to do this, as even government does not.

    • Anonymous says:

      The dive shop staff at Rum Point mentioned to the owner of the subject vessel to secure or move it , prior to it sinking after heavy rain on a weekend, more than 2 months ago. But they were essentially told to mind their own business, as this was ‘Our island’ . Boat sank the next day . He hath foundered in upon the seas.

  3. Anonymous says:

    So in other words, it will sit there till the next hurricane where it will perch on top of someone’s million dollar home in the area. Seems about right.

  4. Sharkey says:

    Why don’t Rum Point give the owner a 7 days notice to have the boat removed , or we Rum Point would have a burn fire of it , or sinking of it , charge $25 per person include 1 mud slide and 1 shot of choice . It’s not that hard of a job to remove it to beach or the ocean . Alot of people haven’t seen the sinking of a boat .

  5. B.B. Gun says:

    Ask Bernie Bush. He should know a thing or two about this topic.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Pathetic. If I throw an empty soda can into a marine park, I can get prosecuted. If I throw a 25 foot lump of plastic, metal, wires, grease, fuel and fiberglass into the same places, then nothing?

    • Anon, and on and on..... says:

      Is Rum Point is a Marine Park. Replenishment Zone, perhaps? More to the point, why would you want to throw an empty soda can into any of our waters?

      I think the DOE’s comment was that it is the owner who is responsible for removing the sunken boat, not you and me, via the public purse. I also think the intent is to get sunken boats removed by the owner, not prosecute and fine them (and then use the public purse to salvage the wreck). “Your boat has sunk. You have so many days to remove it by this date. If you don’t you will pay $500 and an extra $50 a day until you do remove it.” seems a good way to manage the issue. Now, people who think it is OK to throw empty soda cans into the sea? Well, there is a special circle in Hell reserved just for them…. 🙂

      (And yes, I do realize you were just using an example. Just as I am being ironic. No flame war please!)