The exclusion zone around the wreck of L’Ecume II has been reduced and Bahamian authorities are being given the green light to take the lead on a safety-focused investigation, one month on from the tragedy.
The trawler and Condor’s Commodore Goodwill freight ship collided at around 05:30 on 8 December, claiming the lives of skipper Michael Michieli and his two Filipino crew, Jervis Baligat and Larry Simyunn.
Today, Deputy Chief Minister Kirsten Morel confirmed that he had signed a Ministerial Decision reducing the exclusion zone – which was put in place around the wreckage of the L'Ecume II to prevent the passage of any vessels, diving, fishing, laying static gear or trawling – from 750m to 250m.
The decision also gives the Harbour Master the ability to change the radius of the exclusion zone in future to facilitate any potential future salvage operation.
Deputy Morel also confirmed that he had authorised the Harbour Master to sign a suitable memorandum of understanding with the Bahamas Maritime Authority – the flag state of the Goodwill – to carry out a safety-focused maritime inquiry to determine the facts of the collision and what lessons can be learned.
Pictured: Jervis Baligat, Mick Michieli (skipper) and Larry Simyunn, who were all on the L'Ecume II.
The Maritime Industry Authority of the Philippines will also be a "substantially interest state party" to the inquiry.
The States of Jersey Police have been tasked with establishing whether any criminal charges should be brought.
Deputy Morel said: "Following the appointment of the States of Jersey Police to undertake the enforcement investigation, I’m pleased that we’re now in a position to formally engage with the Bahamas Maritime Authority so it can lead the maritime investigation with support from Jersey and the Philippines.”
Andy Shearwood, a former detective chief inspector with Thames Valley Police, has been appointed as the senior investigating officer for ‘Operation Nectar’ and will work alongside Detective Inspector Christina Maclennan, former head of the Criminal Investigation Department at the States of Jersey Police. Local officers will also be supported by the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
CLICK TO LISTEN: Police Chief Robin Smith shared an update on the L'Ecume II and Pier Road investigation in the latest episode of the Bailiwick Podcast.
While Mr Baligat and Mr Simyunn’s bodies were recovered from the L’Ecume II wreck, Mr Michieli was never found despite extensive searches involving lifeboats, specialist vessels and members of the island's maritime community.
Inquests into the deaths of the two crew opened on Friday to allow repatriation and funeral arrangements to be made. The Coroner, Deputy Viscount Mark Harris, then adjourned the inquests to allow the investigations to take place.
Reflecting on the one-month anniversary of the tragedy today, Deputy Kirsten Morel said: "My thoughts remain with the families and friends of Mick Michieli and his crew, Jervis Ramirez Baligat and Larry Simyunn. I would like to sincerely offer my thanks to everyone who has provided their support to those touched by this tragedy, including people from Guernsey, France and the Captain and crew of MV Freja, who were closely involved in the search and recovery operations.
"Our island's spirit was demonstrated in the hours and days that followed this tragic event, as the whole community came together to help both with search and rescue and to provide support to the families."
He continued: "The Pier Road incident struck Jersey just two days after the sinking of L'Ecume II and, faced with two equally terrible tragedies, our community resilience was tested but we came through. Our fortitude has been recognised overseas and we have recieved many letters of condolence from around the world, including His Majesty King Charles III.
"Government will continue to offer support to all those people who have been affected, as well as to the investigators so that they can complete their work which, in due course, will enable us to understand how this tragedy occurred and to learn from this incident so that all seafarers will be safer at sea in the future."
In this week's Bailiwick Podcast, Police Chief Robin Smith spoke about how the island has responded to the twin tragedies of L'Ecume II and the Pier Road explosion...
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