Subsequent to the removal of the M/T Ficus from its grounding site off Goulding Cay, New Providence, a preliminary investigation was conducted by representatives from the Department of Marine Resources (DMR), the Bahamas Environment, Science and Technology Commission (“BEST”) and Shell Trading. No oil was released; however, the marine environment sustained damage as a result of the ship impacting the seafloor and the effects of prop wash on the hard and soft corals.
Following this investigation, Government formed a committee to oversee all restoration efforts related to the M/T Ficus grounding incident. BEST chairs this committee, which includes representatives from BEST, DMR, the Port Department, the Attorney General’s Office, the Bahamas National Trust (BNT), The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Bahamas Reef Environment Education Foundation (BREEF).
BEST as a result of the committee’s deliberations posted a Request for Proposals from various firms with experience in reef damage assessment and restoration. Several proposals were received and evaluated based on several relevant criteria, including number of years experience, assessment methodology, ability to mobilize quickly and cost.
The Florida-based firm Continental Shelf Associates International, Inc. (CSA) was selected to conduct the damage assessment, rehabilitation, restoration and monitoring activities.
CSA and Government representatives conducted the damage assessment from May 10th-12th. The assessment revealed antifouling paint from the ship’s hull, damaged and dead corals and seafloor scarring that cover two, distinct impact zones totaling approximately one half an acre (or 20,100 square feet). In addition, many hard corals had been detached from the seafloor but were still viable. Propeller wash from the vessel had also damaged soft coral in the impact area.
The restoration work, which is labour-intensive and involves the removal of the antifouling paint and cementing the viable coral fragments in clusters, attempts to harmonize the site to the surrounding unimpacted area, and began on the 12th June. Some 500 pounds or (230 kilograms) of hull paint and attached sediment were removed and 739 hard and soft corals re-attached in the impact zone. The corals were tagged, photographed and mapped for future monitoring events.
Almost immediately thereafter, some fish approached the restored areas. Restoration is approximately 50% completed. Further mitigation activities are planned and due for completion by September. Efforts are hampered by the difficult working conditions in close proximity to the Tongue of the Ocean.