The Guatemalan vessel that got lodged on the Belize Barrier Reef has been removed after several days but there are more speculations surrounding the entire incident. Several Belizeans took to the social media to express their concerns over how the vessel ended up in Belizean waters and subsequently on the Barrier Reef. While the Ministry of National Security has reported that the vessel was travelling to La Isla Mujeres, Mexico, when it encountered mechanical difficulties and consequently went aground, there are many questioning the lawfulness of the vessels route on Belizean waters. One of those is the People’s United Party which has issued a release condemning the way the matter has been handled. According to the opposition, quote, “Even if the Guatemalan vessel was exercising a right to innocent passage and in transit to Mexico as expressed by the Ministry of National Security, existing security protocols agreed under Confidence Building Measures should have caused the Guatemalan authorities to advise the Belizean authorities, in advance of their intent to transit Belizean territorial waters. Additionally, as if the initial incursion into Belize’s territorial waters was not bad enough, the Ministry of National Security has also advised that another Guatemalan naval vessel did come to the aid of the vessel that ran aground—yet another clear violation of our territorial integrity and sovereignty,” end of quote. The party continues by demanding the government give a full and factual account of whether Guatemalan authorities advised Belize of their intent to transit our territorial waters and if so when and to whom. They are also asking the government to clarify why the operators of the vessel didn’t issue a distress call so Belizean authorities could respond in good time. The opposition is also calling for clarification on when the other Guatemalan naval vessel entered Belize’s territorial waters purportedly in a search and rescue mode and whether there will be appropriate charges laid for the breaches of the Harbors and Merchant Shipping Act and the Environmental Protection Act and other laws of the country for not reporting the accident and the environmental damages caused. The incident, says the opposition is quote, “yet another failure on the part of the Barrow Administration to protect, defend and preserve Belize’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” end of quote.
Reports indicate that the vessel has been removed from the reef between Long Caye and Middle Caye in Glover’s Reef and allowed to return to Puerto Barrios with all crew members on board. It is understood that this is a breach of protocol when a vessel damages Belize’s reef. A full report of the incident is expected to be filed at the ministry of national security.
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