Government is investigating the widening of Channels to accommodate larger cruise ships. *File photo
Government is investigating the widening of Channels to accommodate larger cruise ships. *File photo

The Ministry of Public Works would like to advise the public that it has awarded Bermuda Environmental Consultants the contract to carry out the Environmental Impact Assessment to look into potentially widening one of the shipping Channels in the near future.

This is needed as part of a wider feasibility study which would allow larger cruise ships to visit Bermuda. Currently, in order for vessels to enter Bermuda, they must approach Five Fathom Hole on the North Eastern tip of the island. From this point, vessels wishing to approach Dockyard, Great Sound and Hamilton must navigate a dredged channel, bordered by reef, to St. Catherine’s Point - known as ‘The Narrows’.

Vessels then can either proceed down the South or North Channel. One of these two channels will need to be modified in order to accommodate the new generation of cruise ships such as Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum class of ships.

A feasibility study will be undertaken immediately by the Ministry of Public Works to consider the available options for channel improvement.

The options include:

• Option 1 – Realign the North Channel

• Option 2 – Upgrade the existing route of the South Channel

• Option 3 – Realign the South Channel

The engineering studies and the obtainment of associated costs of construction have already commenced. An Environmental Impact Study (EIS) is also required as part of the feasibility study. The EIS will look at environmental considerations for each of the alternatives, including the impact on coral reefs and marine life; sustainability considerations; and impacts on business, tourism, transport etc.

The initial phase of the EIS, Project Scoping, involves identifying which special interest groups, Government Ministries and general stakeholder groups have a vested interest in the project; what their concerns are; and what studies/reports for example may be required.

To meet the targeted deadline, Bermuda Environmental Consultants will soon be inviting expressions of interest from those parties, in addition to holding town hall meetings and presentations. The ‘project scoping’ is scheduled to be completed by April 2014.

Public awareness of the project’s progress will be facilitated through timely updates issued to the media.