Goodbye Explorer; Two for By-Election; Howatt to bow out in 2008; Drug arrests.
Goodbye ExplorerTHE environmental effects of the sinking of the cruise ship Explorerare being monitored by the Chilean Navy, a spokesman from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has confirmed. The Falklands and the wider world watched with sadness as the pioneering cruise ship sank in Antarctica at the weekend. Built in 1969, Explorer, nicknamed the Little Red Ship, was the first expeditionary cruise ship ever built. The vessel sank on Friday night after being holed in the Bransfield Strait near the South Shetland Islands. Her 100 passengers and 53 crew abandoned ship and took to lifeboats. The weather was in their favour with only light winds, albeit in freezing temperatures. The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) co-ordinated the response of other ships in the vicinity and within hours of their evacuation, the passengers and crew were rescued by the Norwegian cruise ship, M/S Nordnorge. They were taken to Chilean and Uruguayan bases on King George Island in Antarctica and eventually flown to Punta Arenas for connecting flights home. The environmental effects of Explorer'ssinking are being regularly monitored. Rob Bowman from the Polar Regions Unit FCO said the Antarctic Treaty Protocol on Environmental Protection, 1991, requires all activities (including tourism) in Antarctica to be planned to minimise environmental impacts. He said the Exploreris believed to have gone down in waters of between 1,000 - 14,500 metres and that she was carrying around 180 cubic metres of diesel marine fuel oil together with smaller amounts of lubricants and gasoline. He commented: "The latest infor- mation we have (from the Chilean authorities) is that there is a small amount of oil on the surface of the water in the area the vessel sank and that a Chilean vessel is actively trying to disperse this. "Hopefully, given the location of the incident (some 50 miles from the coast) and the weather conditions immediately afterwards, any environmental impacts will be minimal. Nonetheless the Chileans will continue to monitor the situation." Continued on page 3. Two for By-ElectionONLY two people have said they are definitely standing for election. Dr Richard Davies, who had to vacate his council seat after it was found he had acted unconstitutionally when he worked as Acting Chief Medical Officer, and former councillor John Birmingham have both confirmed they will run in the January By-Election. Mike Forrest, Eric Goss, Kevin Ormond and Phil Middleton all said they were still considering whether to run while Faith Felton said it was "looking likely" she would stand. The By-Election will take place on January 3. Candidates must submit their nomination papers to the Returning Officer by 4.30pm on Friday, December 7. Howatt to bow out in 2008DEREK HOWATT has announced that he will be retiring as Financial Secretary in July next year, after 32 years of service at the Treasury. The announcement came as the government revealed a new staffing structure for the Treasury, approved at the last meeting of Executive Council, which will increase higher level qualified accountancy posts, and leave more room for career progression. This includes merging the positions of Financial Secretary and Treasurer (otherwise known as Deputy Financial Secretary). The present Treasurer, Keith Padgett, is to be offered appointment to a revised post of Financial Secretary. Looking back on his years at the Treasury, Mr Howatt commented: "My stewardship of the public finances has been greatly assisted by the efforts of the willing and efficient staff that have accompanied me over the years and I am very grateful for their support. "After presenting 17 budgets it is now time to pass on the leadership of the Treasury to a worthy successor and I have every confidence that Keith will rise to the challenge." Drug arrestsLESS than a week after the Chief of Police vowed to take any allegations of drug use seriously, three people have been arrested for suspected possession of cannabis. Two drug 'stop and searches' were conducted in Stanley on Friday evening. A small quantity of a substance believed to be cannabis was recovered from one of the people searched and they were arrested. Enquiries into the offence revealed the identity of a suspect who had supplied the drugs, Superintendent Paul Elliott said. A search warrant was obtained and a small quantity of what was believed to be cannabis was recovered from an address in Stanley. The suspect - now known to be a reserve police constable - was not at home at the time of the search, but was subsequently arrested in the early hours of Saturday morning on suspicion of possession of illegal drugs. As a result of continuing enquiries the identity of a third suspect was established and search warrants obtained. Another small quantity of a substance believed to be cannabis was recovered from an address in Stanley on Saturday afternoon and a person living there was arrested on suspicion of possession of illegal drugs. All three arrested people were released on police bail pending a charging decision by the Attorney General's Chambers. The reserve police officer was immediately suspended from the force. Supt Elliott commented: "These drugs-related arrests come only days after a public meeting where the issue of drug availability was raised by a concerned member of the public. "The Falkland Islands enjoy a virtually drug free society and maintain a zero tolerance policy in respect of drug abuse. These arrests demonstrate the commitment of the police to take information received from the public seriously and to act quickly to deal with suspected offences and offenders involved in drugs or any other criminal activity, no matter their position in the community." Supt Elliott told Falklands Radio that the people arrested were "some way down the food chain." He commented: "We haven't got Mr Big yet and we are still looking for the main importer of these illegal substances."