Categorized | National News

MSC Cruises to Transform Ocean Cay

A former sand-mining and aragonite site, Ocean Cay, abandoned in 2015 was acquired by MSC Cruises, which are now working to conserve the natural elements of the property while turning it into a marine reserve. 

MSC Cruise began the project in 2015 and took on the challenge to transform the industrial wasteland into a marine reserve and tourist destination, at the same time investing some $300 million. 

MSC Cruises announced yesterday, that the company is committed to restoration and ongoing conservation of marine resources and made significant clean up efforts to the island and surrounding ocean bed, discarding up to 7,500 tons of scrap metal that was transported to a dedicated U.S. based licensed waste contractor. 

Matthew McKinnon, of the MSC Foundation, an independent entity, explained that the property at Ocean Cay has a degrading ecosystem and is in a declining state. 

“So, for instance the conch is being exploited at unsustainable levels. The coral has had as much as 50 percent mortality in recent years,” Mr. McKinnon said.

“In the context of global environmental changes, like climate change and the warming of the waters, at this stage the reefs are basically on the way out.

“So, what we’re looking to do with MSC and as MSC Foundation is to try and find a way to make use of those amazing resources of the island and pull both the expertise of those available in The Bahamas with experts regionally, experts internationally and try and find a way to save the coral, to support its resilience so it can rebound and it can cope with changes that are to come.”

Having had a team of 10 marine biologists comb the area in April, Mr. McKinnon said steps have been taken to determining how the area will be managed.  

“After we received the facts and the outcome of the assessment, we gathered a team of all of these experts on Bimini, for about a week, and we started the process to design a plan to rebound the ecosystem of the area,” Mr. McKinnon said. 

“We have plans to not only support the conservation, to study the restoration, but also we are exploring careers in academic partnerships with the University of The Bahamas and universities based in America, where we can train students who will participate in the conservation progamme.” 

Engaged by MSC Cruises, with the approval from the BEST Commission, Principle of Design Elements Tanya Ferguson explained that the role of the company is the environmental management and said there has been no negative push back from environmentalists. 

“I have a chain of staff that is onsite 24 hours doing environmental monitoring,” Mrs. Ferguson said. 

“Although this is an industrial site and at the end there will be a net positive impact, which means that instead of having a degraded impact you will have actually a net positive impact because you would have improved what you met there. Even though that’s the case, in doing so there is still the chance that you can have an impact and so our role is to ensure that during the construction phase the activities associated with the project does not add to the impact.

“Because of the nature of the site, there’s been very little [pushback], but there has been, as with everything, there has been some inquiries and almost every inquiry that was made, Michelle (McGregor) and I we personally spoke with the parties involved and at the end of it they were rather pleased.”
Mrs. Ferguson added that her agency has met with stakeholders as well as the surrounding communities of Bimini and Coco Cay.

“We went out and we did stakeholder engagement on several levels.  We did it on a community level where we had a community meeting,” Mrs. Ferguson said.

“We also had persons on the ground doing interviews with persons within the community.  So that’s what we did on the community level.  Then we had engagements from the various environmental NGOs of The Bahamas, the Nature Conservancy, The Bahamas National Trust, the various governments Ministry of Environment, the Department of Marine Resources and also the University of The Bahamas as a key partner, Cape Eleuthera, Center for Oceanic Research (COR).

“So, there was extensive engagement with local environment community just to get feedback and to find the possible right fit for the partnership when it comes to the management aspect of it.

“MSC creates a wonderful opportunity to show how an area if properly managed what results can happen, but it’s also unique because it is a first opportunity for a private partnership cooperation for something like this, so all around it’s a very unique project.”

Ocean Cay Marine Reserve will host over half a million tourists annually. 

The MSC Marine Reserve Bahamas anticipates being a low impact island nearly completely solar, with a solar farm that will produce up to 600KW which will allow for the island to be operated without any other source of energy when the ship is not in port. 

According to Gianluca Suprani, SVP Port Development and Shoreline Activities for MSC Cruises, there are plans to use bio-diesel to operate generators which will allow for minimal impact.

Use of a water well, sent to an advanced filtration system producing up to 120,000 gallons of fresh water and the use of solar electric cars throughout the cay as well as the ban of the single use of plastic are all features of the MSC Marine Reserve at Ocean Cay.  

Written by Jones Bahamas

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Watch JCN Channel 14 Shows

Jcn Channel 14

Sign in now to see your channels and recommendations!

Join Us on Facebook