18 NOVEMBER 2021

Start of construction of MSC Foundation Marine Conservation Center celebrated in ceremony with Prime Minister of The Bahamas

Unique research and conservation centre in Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve heralds new phase in MSC Foundation’s flagship coral reef restoration and resilience programme

Focus Area: Marine Conservation

 

The naming of MSC Cruises’ new vessel MSC Seashore at Ocean Cay in The Bahamas on the 18th of November was accompanied by an important event in the implementation of the MSC Foundation’s pioneering coral restoration and resilience programme based on the island, the groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the start of construction of the MSC Foundation Marine Conservation Center.

MSC Foundation Marine Conservation Center

OCEAN CAY, The Bahamas -- Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investments & Aviation the Hon. Chester Cooper, and included government ministers. Pierfrancesco Vago - Chair of the MSC Foundation Executive Committee & Executive Chairman of MSC Cruises, Rick Sasso - Chairman of MSC Cruises (USA) and MSC Foundation Ambassador, Gianni Onorato, CEO of MSC Cruises and MSC Foundation Executive Director Daniela Picco.

This unique new research facility will play a key role in the MSC Foundation’s commitment to help reverse the steep decline of coral reefs around the globe, which threatens a quarter of all marine life and the livelihoods of millions of people.

The groundbreaking ceremony was conducted by Rick Sasso - Chairman of MSC Cruises (USA) and MSC Foundation Ambassador, with a Welcome Address by Pierfrancesco Vago - Chair of the MSC Foundation Executive Committee & Executive Chairman of MSC Cruises, in the presence and with the participation of a delegation from The Bahamas. The delegation was led by the Prime Minister, the Hon. Philip Davis, and included government ministers with whom the Foundation and MSC Group have worked closely on the development of the Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve and Super Coral Programme.

As Pierfrancesco Vago informed the assembled company:MSC and The Bahamas have been partners for decades, developing port infrastructure together, generating employment, stimulating growth and promoting The Bahamas as a top global tourist destination. More recently, the MSC Foundation and MSC Group have also been active partners in providing prompt disaster relief and rebuilding support following the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian. In every sense, today as always, we stand together”.

Pierfrancesco Vago - Chair of the MSC Foundation Executive Committee & Executive Chairman of MSC Cruises

Pierfrancesco Vago - Chair of the MSC Foundation Executive Committee & Executive Chairman of MSC Cruises

The proceedings opened with the Bahamian national anthem, led by Mrs. Cleola Pinder - Family Island Administrator Bimini & Cat Cay, followed by an invocation by Pastor Terez Rolle - President of the Bimini Christian Council, and a Welcome Address by Pierfrancesco Vago. This led into opening remarks by the Hon. Obie Wilchcombe - Minister of Social Services & Urban Development and Member of Parliament for West Grand Bahama & Bimini, and by the Hon I. Chester Cooper - Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, who then introduced the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Hon. Philip Edward Davis. The Prime Minister delivered the keynote address which launched the Groundbreaking Ceremony itself, involving MSC Foundation Executive Director Daniela Picco and Gianni Onorato, CEO of MSC Cruises.

    Prime Minister of the Bahamas, Philip Davis | MSC Foundation

Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis

Philip Davis  - Prime Minister of The Bahamas and Pierfrancesco Vago - Chair of the MSC Foundation Executive Committee & Executive Chairman of MSC Cruises

Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis and Pierfrancesco Vago - Chair of the MSC Foundation Executive Committee & Executive Chairman of MSC Cruises

The purpose-designed Marine Conservation Center that the MSC Foundation is building at the heart of the Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve will provide cutting-edge marine ecosystem research, conservation and education facilities, together with public information, awareness-raising and active engagement services. The centre is being built by Island Site Development (Bahamas) in two phases, starting November 2021. The first phase, due for completion in Spring 2022, will focus on the research facilities, including a Marine Research Laboratory, coral tanks, outdoor Coral Nursery tanks and Pump Room. The second phase will expand the outdoor Coral Nursery with further tanks, while adding educational and awareness-raising facilities in the form of a Lecture Hall and Interactive Pavilion.

Outlining MSC Foundation’s commitment, Pierfrancesco Vago explained: “When we envisioned Ocean Cay, nature was at the very centre of our plans. Our key priority is to help reverse the decline of coral reefs around the world, rebuilding reef ecosystems and increasing their resilience. So, today marks a giant step forward.

The new Marine Conservation Center will support the marine research and coral conservation work of the MSC Foundation’s flagship Super Coral Programme, focused on the waters around Ocean Cay in the Bahamas, 64 miles east of Miami. Once an industrial sand excavation site, Ocean Cay has been transformed by MSC Cruises – its operator – into a private island conservation destination surrounded by crystal blue waters that are home to important marine species and coral habitats now threatened by rising temperatures and ocean degradation.

The MSC Foundation is working with a team of scientists and environmental experts to identify hardy species and genotypes of coral, colloquially named “Super Coral”, which have survived recent extreme ocean heat events and other impacts in the waters around the island. The Foundation aims to restore coral abundance and diversity around the cay by propagating and out-planting thermally tolerant coral species and genotypes. In time, these regenerated sites will support strong and resilient ecological functionality and provide a lifeline for coral reefs in the region, helping to ensure their future survival. The ultimate aim is to develop a replicable, scalable coral conservation model that can be deployed to restore and save vulnerable reefs worldwide.

 

You can read more about the Super Coral Programme  here and in our digital Annual Report 2020 here.

Pictures: ( James McEntee _AP Images)