Cruise Ship Grounding Damaged Five Acres of Coral
Indonesian maritime authorities have reached an agreement with insurers on the extent of the damage from the grounding of the Caledonian Sky, a British-owned vessel that struck bottom in Raja Ampat, a group of islands and coral reefs in West Papua. A joint survey team estimated that the Sky destroyed about 13,300 square meters of coral and inflicted "medium damage" on an additional 5,600 square meters – an area totaling to nearly five acres.
The damage assessment is much larger than an earlier survey by academic researchers, and the government warned that it could worsen if corals in the moderately-affected areas do not survive. Arif Havas Oegroseno, an official with Indonesia's maritime affairs ministry, said in a press release that "the chance of living for the damaged coral reefs is 50 percent." Survey teams from the Indonesian government and the insurer will carry out a follow-up site visit, and they will contribute to a final damage assessment in early April. Indonesia's Environment and Forestry Ministry will calculate the economic value of the loss as part of a final agreement.
After an initial survey, Ricardo Tapilatu of the University of Papua's Research Center for Pacific Marine Resources said that the grounding damaged eight species of coral. He suggested that the vessel's operator should pay damages in excess of the standard compensation rate of $200-400 per square meter due to the importance of the site, and proposed a figure in the range of $800-1,200 instead – putting maximum damages into the tens of millions of dollars.
Raja Ampat is a popular and environmentally sensitive diving destination, and local residents have expressed concern about the potential impact on tourism revenue. "Some people work as fishermen or farmers, but mostly we work in the tourism sector," said diving instructor Ruben Sauyai, speaking to the BBC. "The damage is huge and acute. It could take 10 to 100 years to repair it."
Given the economic and environmental importance of the site, the government has taken a firm stance in negotiations, and officials in Jakarta even summoned the British ambassador to complain. (The ship's owner and commercial manager is a UK-based company.) Arif Havas Oegroseno, deputy minister at the ministry of maritime affairs, singled out the vessel’s master for particular criticism. "The people of Indonesia and the people of Papua have yet to hear [Caledonian Sky’s] Captain Keith Michael Taylor state an apology or remorse for the damage done by his act," he said. "The guardians of Raja Ampat, the people of Papua, are anxious to hear what British Captain Taylor has to say."