Freighter Grounding Prompts State of Emergency in Galápagos

The ship Floreana on the rocks off San Cristóbal Island, Galápagos

Consejo del Gobierno

The ship Floreana on the rocks off San Cristóbal Island, Galápagos

Galápagos has officially been declared in a state of emergency in the aftermath of the grounding on January 28th of the freighter Floreana. This decree was issued by three ministries, Environment, Public Works and Natural Resources, to mitigate possible environmental damage and interruptions in the shipping of freight and fuel to the islands.

Close to 30,000 people live in the archipelago, located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. They depend almost entirely on supplies transported by ship from the continent. Now that supply line is being cut short once again and people are complaining that there are shortages and price increases.

In addition to the the Floreana, two other ships that made the run were lost in the last 9 months. On May 2014 the Galapaface I also ran aground in the same area and the San Cristóbal sank near the Ecuadorian coastline on November 17, 2014.

According to the website of the Environment Ministry, the declaration of emergency will facilitate “implementing the necessary and appropriate measures aimed at the rehabilitation and maintenance of marine and coastal ecosystems of environmental damage that could be triggered by the stranding and sinking of the Floreana.” It also directs the Galapagos National Park “to provide technical advice and logistics, execute action plans and measures necessary to reduce the environmental impact.”

The emergency declaration also includes measures to help cope with interruption to the maritime transportation of cargo and fuel to Galapagos. For now Ecuadorian Air Force planes will fly perishable goods and other needed supplies to the islands and another ship is in the process of being purchased and is expected to start operations in March.

The ministries issued their joint declaration in response to the recommendation made by the Committee of Emergency Operations (COE) of the Galapagos Governing Council. The state of emergency will last for 180 days.

The owner of the Floreana, Frank Chatburn, in an interview with the daily El Universo, stated that he has contracted a salvage company and that “they will get the boat off the Galapagos and scuttle it” in an area outside of the Marine Reserve.

He told the newspaper that his company’s insurance will pay the value of the cargo. He added that he is heartbroken over this loss: “It was my life, my beloved ship, I do not know what happened,” he said.