photo: Tim van Dijk

PHILIPSBURG – Almost 3,5 years after hurricane Irma, the removal of all the shipwrecks left in the Simpsonbay Lagoon on Sint Maarten has begun.

The World Bank has allocated 12 million euros from the Sint Maarten recovery fund to remove tens of shipwrecks located on the Dutch side of the island.

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By Tim van Dijk

There are 109 names and numbers on the board in the dockside work shed, each one attributed to a wreck above, halfway down, or below the waterline. A temporary shipyard near the Airportroad acts as a base of operations, where all wrecks will be housed by the Dutch salvage company Koole, which is based out of Vijfhuizen.

Salvage specialist Marc Rooijakkers: “We’ll use caution and care when removing the shipwrecks from the Simpsonbay Lagoon and will transport them to a temporary shipyard where we’ll expertly disassemble them and separately ship off the oil, wood, metal, plastic, and polystyrene to be recycled.” The salvage company has a good working relationship with the Nature Foundation to ensure that the damage caused to the ecosystems both above and below the water remain minimal.

Some of the wrecks date back to hurricane Louis in 1995. These will also be removed as to ensure the safety of water sport practitioners and waterways in the near future.
After the removal of the shipwrecks, the coastlines will also be inspected and any remnants left over by Irma and trash will be removed. The bottom of the Simpsonbay Lagoon will also be cleansed where necessary.

Whether the French government will make use of the heavy materials which were brought over from the Netherlands remains to be seen. There are an additional 130 shipwrecks on the French side of the lagoon, which present a major risk to the environment.

The project will costs around 12 million euros and the last wreck should be salvaged from the lagoon by mid October.