Both Royal Caribbean at their Coxen Hole cruise ship terminal and Carnival Cruise Lines at their facility in Dixon Cove are planning to move coral. In the case of Carnival, the coral removal is to enlarge the entrance to Dixon Cove; for Royal Caribbean, to almost double the footprint of their terminal.
At Port of Roatan the percentage, species, size and overall quantity of coral to be moved has yet to be determined. The coral is to be moved about 1.5 miles west, to one of five locations in Flowers Bay.
Alvaro Duron, Port of Roatan’s GM, says that while Royal Caribbean had an environmental permit in hand to move the coral, the lack of clear standards from Honduras’ Environment Ministry (SERNA) made Royal Caribbean hesitant until now to begin moving coral, to risk the possibility of some of it dying and to face subsequent litigation.
“Lack of national laws and regulations regarding coral relocation has been a big obstacle,” says Yanu Ramirez, Port of Roatan’s environmental officer. Ramirez says that coral moving will begin early after the rainy season and will most likely be limited in scope.
The original environmental permit, valid for two years, was issued on December 1, 2001. Royal Caribbean has now filed an extension to the permit and deposited a $816,000 bond “in case we do any damage to the coral.” “We would prefer not to dredge at all and we are trying to minimize our footprint,” said Duron. While the area of the second phase should be around 112,000 square feet, the exact shape and location of the filled in area has yet been determined.
To minimize dredging, the boat pick-up and drop off facilities might not be built. The fill itself might happen much closer to shore, away from the coral heads that are doing quite well since the Port of Roatan did its first land reclamation.
2011 saw a record number of cruise ship passengers coming to Roatan, with 310,000 of them visiting on ships docked at Port of Roatan. Royal Caribbean has changed its strategy and in 2012 will move many of its ships from the Caribbean to Europe. With the Olympics in London, and the Eurocup in Poland and Ukraine, Europe will be a beehive of activity in 2012.
Activity in Europe means lull in the Caribbean and on Roatan. Between April 27 and November 1, 2012, no ships are scheduled to stop at Port of Roatan. While this is an annual low season for the Caribbean, this still signifies a loss of 24-30 cruise ship visits for the island. “We will be getting fewer but bigger ships–3,000 passengers not just 2,000,” said Duron.
Mid 2012 looks like it will be tough for businesses living off cruise ship tourists and retailers at Port of Roatan. Duron says that rents will be lowered to help retailers in the tough six months. On a positive note, a major new renter at Port of Roatan, Dufry, has been able to secure a duty-free status from ZOLITUR which will now allow it to sell goods to islanders, not just cruise ship visitors.
Currently Port of Roatan has 23 stores with 36,000 square feet of retail space.
The new construction on the reclaimed land should add another 25,000 square feet of retail space and a hotel with around 90 rooms. The construction of retail spaces is estimated to last around 12 months, and the hotel’s construction around 20 months.
Roatan Cruise Terminal (RCT) at Mahogany Bay plans to conduct moving of coral and dredging after the rainy season as well. “We have received all necessary permits for the minor channel alignment dredging and we expect to start working in the near future,” wrote Mike Reimers, general manager of RCT, a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation.
The work appears to be far from “minor” as RCT filed a petition to dredge a 50,000 square meter triangular area at the eastern entrance to Dixon Cove and transplant 12,000 square meters of coral.
Currently the existing width of the channel varies along its length, and maneuvering through it becomes tricky for many vessels when winds exceed 20 knots. In the last two years, dozens of ships have abandoned entering Dixon Cove and without tender options couldn’t even harbor at Port of Roatan when that port’s berth was occupied.
Steven Guillen of Aqua has received a contract for dredging and has begun working with Harold Hudson, Phd. of Reef Tech Inc. on evaluating the coral and techniques of moving the coral. [/private]