Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Governor says yacht’s owner will pay to clean up Balandra Bay oil spill

It’s not yet known whether the company that owns a yacht that contaminated a Baja California Sur beach will face fines, but it will cover the costs of cleaning up the coastline.

The luxury yacht Fortius caught fire and sank off the coast of Balandra beach near state capital La Paz on August 21. The calamity caused the beach – which has been described as the most beautiful in Mexico – to become contaminated with large quantities of oil, diesel fuel, ash and soot.

Baja California Sur Governor Víctor Castro Cosío said last week it would be up to federal environment authorities to decide whether the yacht owner would be fined. However, he stressed that the owner – a Jalisco-based company called Fortius Electromecánica – would pay to clean up the beach and the bay on which it is located.

“The owner of the vessel already committed [to pay], they’re hiring a company to help clean up,” Castro said. “Not just that, they have to recover the sunken vessel so that it doesn’t [continue] contaminating.”

The governor also said that the accident was “ the kind of thing that can’t be anticipated – it was a fire on a boat.”

“I think the whole community understands that it was an accident. This could happen with a car in the city and a gas spill. The owners, poor people, experienced losses as well,” Castro said.

A cleanup brigade of officials and more than 50 volunteers cleared 10 tonnes of waste last week, but nine days after the yacht fire and oil spill occurred, Balandra beach remains closed due to contamination.

A group of citizens protested on the La Paz malecón (seaside promenade) on Saturday to denounce the environmental damage and demand transparency in authorities’ response to it. The mainly young protesters held up placards with messages such as “Fortius, you messed with the wrong city,” “It could have been prevented, it’s not an accident” and “More action, more transparency.”

Meanwhile, the news website BCS Noticias reported that Fortius Electromecánica – which completes electrical installations and provides renewable energy solutions, according to the company’s website – was awarded 29 federal and state government contracts between 2007 and 2015. The value of the contracts was 92.9 million pesos (US $4.6 million at today’s exchange rate), said BCS Noticias, which obtained the information from QuiénesQuién.Wiki, a website that describes itself as Latin America’s “map of power.”

The state-owned Federal Electricity Commission awarded most of the contracts, which were for lighting and electricity projects in states including Jalisco and Coahuila.

Fortius Electromecánica is owned by David Alcalde Andrade. According to a report by the news magazine Zeta Tijuana, members of the Alcalde family constantly used the yacht to visit different destinations on the Mexican coast.

With reports from BCS Noticias

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