US donates to Cayman’s Shipwreck City project

The Cayman Islands is to be the recipient and pilot for the first donation of a ship from the United States’ Maritime Administration (MARAD) to a foreign Government for the Cayman Islands Tourism Association’s (CITA) Shipwreck City Project.

MARAD is an agency within the Department of Transportation in the US. It is expected that the designated ship will be the USS Kittiwake, a US Navy auxiliary submarine rescue vessel, or ASR dating back to World War II.

According to CITA Board Member and Divetech’s Nancy Easterbrook, who is heading up the project, remediation work will first have to be done on the submarine to get rid of any toxic materials. This will be done in the US and has to be signed off by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Environment there.

Ms Easterbrook explained how the donation of the ship from MARAD is coming about. ‘They own all the vessels in the US armed services and one of their responsibilities is to attempt to get rid of obsolete ships.’

Scrapping ships can be very costly and time consuming because of red tape associated with the removal of chemicals and so they have set up a programme in which these ships are donated for the purposes of artificial reefs.

She described the donation as being ‘extremely high profile’ and said from the CITA’s point of view it has been a ‘massive undertaking.’ This is to be the first of four ships for the project.

Ms Easterbrook said following Hurricane Ivan the Ministry of Tourism, Department of Tourism and CITA had met and confirmed that the Shipwreck City Project was still a No. 1 priority.

Ms Easterbrook said that there is no specific timeline yet for the completion of this first phase of the project involving the MARAD donation.

She asserted that the sinking of wrecks does much to stimulate tourism.

According to the Caribbean Shipping Association, artificial reefing is good for the environment and for the economy. Obsolete ships are frequently sunk as artificial reefs in many areas worldwide. There are more than 100 such reefs in Florida alone. They attract fish, and the abundance of fish attracts recreational fishers and divers.

Speaking at the Cayman Islands Tourism Exchange organised by the Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA) last week, Leader of Government Business and Minister for Tourism McKeeva Bush said $300,000 of Government funds have already been committed to the Shipwreck City Project.