Large Ship Intercepted Illegally Anchoring On the Saba Bank


SABA BANK – A large ship was intercepted on June 5th on the Saba Bank by the Saba Bank Management Unit (SBMU). The SBMU’s patrol boat "Queen Beatrix" was on a research trip and was unpleasantly surprised when they encountered the "Rubin", a 100m long cargo vessel, illegally anchored on the Saba Bank, about 13 miles west of Saba.


Ever since the Saba Bank was designated a Nature Park by the Netherlands in December 2010, anchoring on the Bank is forbidden. In November last year this prohibition was endorsed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which granted PSSA (Particularly Sensitive Sea Area) status to the Saba Bank, including two associated protective measures or APMs, No-Anchoring zone and Area to be Avoided (ATBA).

The ATBA measure came into force as of June 1 of this year and has been implemented in Dutch Law as an amendment to the Regulation designating the Saba Bank as Nature Park and prohibiting anchoring. The amendment now also prohibits ships of greater than 300 GT (gross tonnage) from entering the Saba Bank area. The Saba Bank is one of only fifteen areas in the world that have received the PSSA status from the IMO. It is now part of a select group that includes areas such as the Galápagos islands, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hawaii, and the Wadden Sea of Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. In the Caribbean there are only two other PSSAs, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and the Sabana-Camagüey Archipelago in Cuba.

The Saba Bank Management Unit (SBMU) was established by the Ministry of Economic Affairs under the Saba Conservation Foundation to patrol the Saba Bank, monitor the fisheries, and facilitate further research on the Bank. Unfortunately the SBMU does not have the authority to fine trespassers, so when the cargo vessel "Rubin" was found illegally anchoring on the Saba Bank, the Coast Guard was informed promptly. Meanwhile the SBMU patrol boat "Queen Beatrix" informed the ship that it was illegally anchored. The captain of the "Rubin" questioned the legality of not being allowed to anchor there, but was informed about the National Park and PSSA status of the Saba Bank. The Rubin left after receiving this information. Anchoring is illegal on the Saba Bank because anchors destroy the bottom and threaten the coral reefs and other unique sea life. Ships passing over the Bank often destroy the marker buoys of lobster and fish traps, causing great economic damage for the fishermen as well as ecological damage because the lost traps continue fishing as so-called "ghost traps".