General — 01 July 2017 — by Albert J. Ciego
Yacht ran aground on the reef near Snake Caye

SNAKE CAYE, Stann Creek District, Thurs. June 29, 2017–A United States-registered 45-foot yacht, the La Ishta II, was found on the reef near Snake Caye in the Stann Creek District by the Belize Coast Guard, who were conducting routine patrols in the southern seas last week.

A report was made to the Port Authority and the Department of the Environment, who went to the area to find out what had happened, and to assess the damages. An initial assessment of the area was also conducted by TIDE (Toledo Institute for Development and the Environment), because Snake Caye lies inside the Port Honduras Marine Reserve, a zone co-managed by that organization.

Nicholas Christian Dorion Ferber, the Guatemalan captain of the vessel, told local authorities that the incident occurred while he was travelling to Livingston, Guatemala, from Placencia, Belize. A senior officer at the Port Authority told us that they are yet to conclude their report, but it is believed that the motorized yacht ran aground due to the captain’s error.

The senior officer told us that the captain reported that late in the night on June 20, the seas got very rough and they found that their anchor was being pulled. About midnight there was a shift in wind direction and they tried to make it around the caye to safe harbor, but ended up on the reef.

The Port Authority visited the area on June 21 and found the boat’s crew trying to take the vessel off the reef, which is a violation.

The boat was impounded and its captain and crew of four were detained and requested to remain in Belize until an assessment of the damages to the reef was made, and the damages calculated.

At the conclusion of the investigation into the incident, the captain was charged for damaging the reef and failing to report the incident. He was given the choice to settle out of court or, go to court and plead his case.

Today, we were informed by the Port Authority that the captain settled out of court with the Department of the Environment for an undisclosed sum, which must be paid in full before the yacht is released.

Also, the captain paid the Port Authority $7,000 for failing to report the incident.

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