Coastal Freighter Jireh, Aground on Mona Island Off Puerto Rico with Cargo of Undocumented Haitians

The 185-foot Honduran-flagged coastal freighter Jireh ran aground Thursday morning on Mona Island, a rocky outcropping in the Mona Passage about midway between Mayagüez, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.  The island is uninhabited and maintained as a nature preserve, while the reefs around the island are popular dive sites.  While the grounding damaged a section of coral reef, there have been no reports of oil leakage.

In addition to the five crew members aboard, there were 79 undocumented Haitians on the ship when she ran aground.  Reportedly, dozens of the undocumented migrants swam to shore on Mona.  The freighter is reported to have been carrying no cargo, other than the undocumented passengers, all of whom have now been accounted for by Customs and Border Patrol officials.

Reefs damaged, but migrant freighter not leaking after grounding at Mona

Mona has long been a destination for Cuban migrants trying to reach U.S. soil on clandestine trips from the Dominican Republic. Under the federal government’s so-called wet foot/dry foot immigration policy, Cubans are generally allowed to stay in the U.S.

However, illegal migrant crossings to Puerto Rico are generally made in smaller, makeshift boats known as yolas, not coastal freighters.

“This is extremely unusual,” Castrodad said.

Customs & Border Patrol spokesman Jeffrey Quiñones said the freighter had apparently set out from the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince and was headed to the French island of St. Martin.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Quiñones said. “It’s really unprecedented.”

Thanks to Phil Leon for passing the news along.

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