Symposium on Enhancing Ocean Governance in the Caribbean

Feature Address By His Excellency Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona ORTT, SC President Of The Republic Of Trinidad And Tobago
At A Symposium on Enhancing Ocean Governance in the Caribbean
At the UTT Centre For Maritime Studies – June 29, 2017

I wish to congratulate these visionary organisations and persons, the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard (TTCG) and Justice Anthony Lucky who have brought together under one symposium, experts, the cognoscenti in the field of Ocean governance and the wellbeing of our seas.  It would be remiss of me, as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of this great Republic if I did not pay homage to the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard (TTCG) for their efforts in ensuring the protection of the borders and seas of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.  You all form part of that distinguished corps of military men and women with the noble and honourable task of protecting the citizenry of this great Republic and securing their wellbeing.

The subject enhancing ocean governance presupposes that there is in existence a sturdy platform of ocean governance or a semblance of one in the Caribbean region.  However, in the light of what is taking place, I ponder whether our ocean governance structure can withstand those emerging blue growth strategies that embrace ocean energy, aquaculture, biotechnology, mining and aqua tourism with offshore wind farms, tidal and wave energy all embraced in that collaborative, economic activity of Multiuse Platforms at Sea (MOPS).  I speak of the ultimate integrated platform purposely designed for a complex combination of activities in a shared marine space.  This is what awaits us and Europe is way ahead in this regard in finding ways and means of new sustainable and innovative economic activities through marine initiatives and infrastructure.  It is not my intention to go into a treaties on blue growth and technology but rather it is a call to arms of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to get on board with what can work in the Caribbean Region.

Ocean governance is such a dynamic evolving concept, involving oversight of spatial areas, connectivity to the ocean’s needs and possibilities, control by way of guidance, service to all stakeholders, interdependence that says we are not alone and vision, the need to go beyond our walls of indifference.  Ocean governance has with it a responsibility to recognise that if systems are stagnating then how can they be brought to life and strengthened and made dynamic.
Blue growth walks hand in hand with blue energy and with this growing awareness of the need to move away from fossil energy in this conference, we must begin a real, implementable dialogue on blue energy.

Throughout the Caribbean, there is a sense of rush to garner the tourist dollar in the face of declining revenues from the manufacturing sectors and those engaged in the exploration of fossil fuel ably assisted by internationally declining revenue streams associated with that economic sector.  One aspect of this rush is to increase cruises to the Caribbean by cruise holiday companies.  It will require all Caribbean countries, great environmental vigilance.  Late last year, it was reported that the America-British Carnival Cooperation pleaded guilty to seven charges for intentional pollution by a ship at sea.  This illegal practice was reported by an engineer on board the Caribbean Princess where a so-called “magic pipe” was utilised to surreptitiously discharge oily waste off the coast of the UK.  The evidence in the court revealed that in August 2013 there was a ingle discharge of 4227 of contaminated water was released around 20 miles off the coast of England.  The Princess Cruise lines as part of a plea agreement, agreed to pay US40 million dollars penalty and agreed to submit 78 cruise ships across its 8 brands to a 5 year environment compliance programme overseen by a judge.  Miami- US Attorney General Willfredo Ferrer stated and I quote, “Our open seas are not dumping grounds for waste.  One thing we must never do is to take out clear blue oceans for granted.”

This is against the background of US environmental protection agency estimating that a single 3,000 person cruise pumps 150,000 gallons of sewage into the ocean per week.  It is a scientific fact that many of the treatment systems employed by these liners do not filter out nitrogen and phosphorous, upon which algae feed and with the growth of algae there is a corresponding tripping of oxygen in the water suffocating shell fish corals, fish and other materials.  These graphic statistics demonstrates crisis that waits us in the Caribbean from the growing proliferation of cruise liners in our fragile Caribbean marine environment.  We therefore need appropriate legislation with appropriate heavy financial sanction to prevent the leer profits by the dumping of waste in the Caribbean Sea.

The coral decay taking place in the Caribbean is phenomenal.  What is interesting, in this particular matter involving the Princess cruises revealed, “Illegal practices were found on 4 other princess ships including use of clean ocean water to fool on board sensors that will otherwise detect dumping improperly contaminate bilge water authorities say cost savings was the motive and that the ship officers and crew conspired to cover up what was going on.”

The court order also included some 14 million dollars or particular environment projects in Britain and international open water?  What is pellucidly demonstrated by this case is the need to have legislation throughout the Caribbean that are harmonised to create the necessary sanctions with the required deterrents.

A month before this incident there was a report by Naturschutzbund Dutschland (Nabu), a German NGO that European cruise ships belch out 3500 times more sulphur dioxide than land based vehicles contributing to a range of issues including climate change, air pollution and lung problem.

With the widening of the Panama Canal there is indeed a great risk that radioactive waste shipments may seek passage through our Caribbean waters and Caricom must remain steadfast in its resolve to pre-empt such intrusion.  In July 2011, then CARICOM Chairman and them Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis aptly summed it up when he stated, “ CARICOM vehemently condemns as unacceptable and injurious, the practice by the UK, France and Japan of transporting hazardous waste through the sea thus risking the every experience of the people in the Caribbean.

I thank you.