Billionaire boater destroys reef

| 25/01/2016 | 49 Comments
Cayman News Service

Reef damaged by the MV Tatoosh

(CNS): An anchor chain on the 300-foot mega-yacht, the MV Tatoosh, owned by billionaire Paul Allen, has destroyed almost 14,000 sq.ft of reef in the West Bay replenishment zone, the Department of Environment confirmed following a survey of the area. DoE officials said more than 80% of the coral in the area has been damaged by the luxury boat’s chain. Local divers conducted an in-water survey of the coral reef damage last week and the DoE expects to publish the detail findings next week.

Early findings already indicate extensive damage and investigations into the circumstances of the incident are ongoing, with the assistance of staff aboard the Microsoft billionaire’s superyacht, which was anchored close to the Doc Poulson wreck and The Knife dive site, officials said.

“In addition to assessing the damage and determining the cause of this incident, we are also paying close attention to lessons learned so that we can more effectively prevent these accidents while still hosting visiting yachts,” a spokesperson for the DoE said.

However, while staff may be assisting and cooperating with the DoE enquiry, a statement released by Allen’s communication team shows the billionaire is not taking responsibility and implicated the Port Authority, saying the crew followed officials’ instructions on where to place the vessel. Shifting winds reportedly changed the position, pushing the ship toward the reserve but it was relocated to avoid damage.

Any vessel that causes damage to local reefs can be fined. However, despite a number of incidents of reef damage over the last few years by both cruise ships and luxury yachts, the government has failed to collect on sanctions. Carnival Cruise Line made a one-off donation last year after one of its cruise ships damaged a significant area in the George Town Harbour in 2014, but the cruise line was never fined.

There were no fines or donations from Pullmantur cruise lines either when its ship, The Zenith, destroyed a significant area of reef when it was anchored in a legitimate but a less used anchor zone in December.

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Category: Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (49)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Ah, did you know the permanent moorings at Jackson point destroy coral every time the tankers tie on? It’s a ship, it’s not like a permanent mooring for dive boats. The permanent mooring is just anchor chain connected to an anchor with a floating tank on top with rope.
    It is not the fault of the Capt. where to anchor. It is Port Authority that tells or puts vessels on anchorage point.
    JUST BUILD THE DOCKS. Dredge the North Sound and get large Yachts tie up to Camana Bay. We have shipping registry so Yachts will come.

  2. WaYaSay says:

    Here is a simple solution that does not include building a mega cruise ship dock. Remember that even with a dock in place, we will still have incidents of anchors destroying reefs as the proposed dock will not cater to all of the cruise ship and private yacht traffic.

    The Short Term Solution:
    Ask the DOE marine division to go out with an accurate GPS unit and record the exact coordinated of every white hole (depressed area filler with sand and no coral reefs) in the anchorage area that is suitable for anchoring without damage to the enviornment.
    Next make a list of these suitable anchor drop spots, with their exact coordibates, and post it on the wall of the Port Security office.
    Give the person on duty some push pins that fan identify what boat is using what anchorage.
    When a new boat arrived, give the captain the exact coordinates of where to drop their anchor and advise them that they are responsible for maintaining their anchor on those coordinated and of the fines for failure to do so.

    ship anchors and causes reef damage, DOE checks coordinates of the anchor, anchor has moved, boat owner pays the perscribed fine.

    Long Term Solution:
    Install perminant moorings in said safe anchoring positions.
    It is a fact that the oil/gas importers have been using perminant moorings for 45 years without destroying the rerfs at Jackson Point. Their activity of gas transfer is one of the most destructive to the enviornment if they are careless but we dont see headlines about damage caused by their ships …….. go figure………… yet Paul Allen, who has been coming here for years can wreck reefs ( as can cruise ships).
    All we can do is point fingers around a circle and read articles in the Compass telling us to shut up before Paul Allen pulls up anchor and never comes back? ( pardon the pun).

    We sit by and accept this just because a minority wants to spend $300million on a new mega dock.
    Why cant we address the problem we have on hand of destruction to the underwater enviornment in the most cost effective way possible? Install perminant moorings!!

  3. Soldier Crab says:

    George Town is probably the only port in the world where anchoring/berthing/mooring instructions are issued by ‘Port Security’. Yes, that’s right, the man in the gatehouse who controls vehicles going in and out of the compound. Whether or not he has ever been to sea, he can’t even see the water.
    As a port, this is a joke.

  4. Sharkey says:

    CNS can you please ask the Cayman Islands Government and DOE , what they think about putting in anchorage moorings now after this disgraceful destruction of 14,000sq ft of corals has been destroyed .

  5. TB says:

    Bit of a sensationalized headline (and incorrect). I know this is a horrible thing but more appropriate would have been “Billionaire Boater Destroys Portion of Reef”

  6. Anonymous says:

    Considering that the largest accident killing reef in recent history (Carnival Magic) came due to the negligence of a company that is owned by the same people that own the tender boats I think it is safe to discard the conspiracy talk.

  7. Yvonne says:

    They should just sue him.

  8. Benjamin H. says:

    In honor of Paul I’ll be downgrading my computer to Windows 98 and using the “underwater” theme… Really Paul, I guess I shouldn’t give you so much gREEF.

  9. Anonymous says:

    He has billions, why can’t he throw some at them and start a conservancy. Asshole, that’s why.

  10. JJ says:

    Interesting to see the superyacht industry libby trying to astro-turf this comments section – to blame government for the decisions made by the master..

    The master is responsible for making these decisions to avoid environmental damage.

    The port authority did not order/direct the master to destroy the reef.

  11. UK Driftwood says:

    A previous CIG press release talked about prosecuting to the full extent of the law. So when we find out yet again it was the fault of the port authority will they prosecute and sack the offenders.
    No of course not and I wonder why!!!!!!!

  12. Anonymous says:

    If we ask Paul nicely he may pay for some permanent moorings.
    ..and maybe finish john grey high as well.

  13. Anonymous says:

    If these people do end up paying monetary fines for this then someone should be made resposible to take that money and make sure the permanent moorings are installed. Do you think these high rollers will continue to visit if we have incidents like this where we have insufficent services and then prosecute them for dropping in an anchorage that port authority give them the coordinates for. bad for business all around.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Captain Alden

  15. Anonymous says:

    Destroy the reef and push for the construction of dock under pretense that if the dock is built it will protect the rest of the reef from being damaged. Kill two birds with one stone. Or just keep fighting the govt on dock construction and watch them destroy the reef completely by allowing accidents like these to happen, quite frequently in recent time. In the end dock will still be built since there wont be any reef left.

  16. Sharkey says:

    Today I can tell that a lot of people are upset with the action of the Port authority and Government and DOE in the destruction of 14,00 Sq ft of corals , but it looks like it is going to take all of us that is upset to go to Government and make them put an end to this careless destruction to the corals / environment.

    end to this .

  17. Anonymous says:

    Even in the age of GPS, the Port Authority, DoE, and Cayman’s Harbour Pilots never seem to fault or penalize themselves for failing to verify that visiting captain’s anchors are dropped and remain in prescribed anchorage zones. The improbable error repetition rate on this easy task leads many to wonder if there isn’t an active subversive effort, by someone within these circles of trust, to deliberately foul as much reef as possible. These events certainly invite a predictable level of outrage, and fan urgency for the deficient and insane pier proposals this Cabinet and Port support. Time and time again our entrusted agencies demonstrate a complicity to shelve integrity, set aside environmental regulations, and accommodate the most egregious trespasses without comment or consequence.

  18. Sharkey says:

    I wonder if anyone has challenged the Government and DOE on putting in permanent moorings , or demanded to have it done to avoid this kind of disgraceful destruction of the underwater environment / corals. I think that the time has come that Government and DOE be put on record on this issue, or it will continue until there is no corals left , then the Dive industry and the tourism would be that time forgot.

  19. Cheese Face says:

    That’s quite the headline CNS! How about “Port Authority wrongly direct captain to anchor on coral reef”?

  20. Anonymous says:

    This has conspiracy written all over it! …Has anyone else noticed how often this is happening since Govt started pushing for a dock? A few more of these “accidents” should win people over to build the cruise dock.

    • Anonymous says:

      Couldn’t agree more. The common theme is the people telling them where to drop the anchor!!!! HMMMM

  21. Anonymous says:

    Wow! at this rate there wont be anything left to destroy… !

  22. Sharkey says:

    I can remember 40 years ago when we didn’t have the Port authority directing the big boat of the Islands, the Captain of the boat would go up about halfway the mast to direct the man at the wheel,and the men at the anchor to make sure that the anchor was dropped in sand/ white hole, and no damages were done to the coral . Today we have a man in port authority who have never been to west bay telling a Captain where to anchor in west bay from George town, we have to expect the destruction of corals . Why don’t the Port authority have a port pilot that go to the site of anchorage to make sure that the ship is anchored in the sand to avoid the destruction of corals , and charge money for port pilot . Did the spokesman said that the ship was relocated to avoid damages ? I think that the Captain and the owner needs to learn big time $$$$ lesson that when you have to move from your authorized anchorage , then you have to stay on your own power until further authorization . This government and DOE would let them keep on destroying the environment / corals because they are millionaire .

  23. Anonymous says:

    The dysfunction and incompetence of the DOE clearly continues with no decision making or commitment to solve the problems and prevent this destruction from reoccurring. The DOE has a $50m war chest of environmental funding and they WILL NOT install mooring for these visiting yachts. No yachts will want to ever come here and give trickle down business to our economy, because the DOE will not install moorings and continue their campaign to obstruct and block the cruise berthing facility which has berths for these mega yachts. How much MORE coral will be destroyed by cruise ships and other visiting yachts and vessels while we wait for the DOE to wake up and be active in making a simple decision which is simple common sense. This has been discussed and on the table for over 25 years and absolutely nothing has been done, however the DOE can make a quick decision for money allowing the selling and harvesting of our coral to make drugs for growing eye lashes receiving $25,000 per Kg of coral. The hypocrisy of it all.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m not an expert on the Environmental Fund, but I don’t think the DOE controls that money. It is controlled by the Legislature.

    • Satirony says:

      8.28 am. You obviously have little idea of the functions and powers of the D.O.E. or the manner in which the funds of the Environmental Fund are controlled. It might be an idea to check your facts before spouting off. Blaming the DOE for the lack of moorings is just plain silly.

      • Anonymous says:

        It involves a simple application and lobbying of CIG to utilize some of this environmental funding to be put to use for this environmental cause, however where there is no willingness or initiative nothing will ever be done or achieved.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Arrest whoever is at fault next time they come to the Islands.

  25. Tim Adam says:

    Pointing fingers at the Port Authority, the yacht captain, or the yacht owner is an exercise in futility.

    This is just another example of the inevitable unless we do what we should. This is what happens if we the people and government of the Cayman Islands persist in not having proper facilities to accommodate and welcome visitors who want to come to Cayman by sea … The present reality is:

    No cruise berthing for cruise ships
    No permanent moorings for visiting yachts
    Anchor damage in random locations is going to happen, sooner or later.

    Incident after incident we have seen this happening, with several painful examples in the past couple of years alone, but despite the clear evidence there still remain well-meaning people in our community, and others with vested interest in the status quo, who rant and rail and attempt to block efforts to move us toward finally implementing sensible solutions.
    “Where have all the corals gone/
    Long time passing/
    Where have all the corals gone/
    Long time ago/
    Where have all the corals gone/
    Anchors pulled them everyone/
    Oh, when will they ever learn?/
    Oh, when will they ever learn?”
    – [Apologies to Peter, Paul & Mary!]

    Yes, building a cruise terminal will necessitate some live coral being removed – but the net negative environmental impacts are not near as much as was portrayed initially. Yes, there will have to be some dredging and a relatively small portion of the dredged area will be live coral, but that is in the George Town Harbour area which is inaccessible for recreational diving most of the time anyway.

    So come on now, which is better:

    A). The status quo which is that from time to unpredictable time, from place to unpredictable place, coral is going to be destroyed by cruise ship and yacht anchors; and as we have seen in recent examples, in many if not all cases that is going to happen in areas that are prime spots for recreational diving?
    B). Dredge and build a cruise berthing facility in a carefully planned zone that is not a prime spot for recreational diving (for practical purposes most of the GTH area it is not used at all for recreational diving), using carefully monitored techniques and oversight to mitigate risks of collateral reef damage? And while we’re at it, put in a few permanent moorings to more safely and conveniently accommodate visiting yachts and superyachts?

    “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – [George Santayana 1863–1952; philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist]

    • Fred the piemaker says:

      Because Paul Allens yacht would have been tied up to the cruise dock, right. Telling captains not to anchor on coral, or putting in permanent moorings ( which do not involve dredging a or massive coral destruction) would have avoided the problem. And if by chance it’s the captains fault fine the he’ll out I him. Allen can afford it. Don’t make it what it isn’t to support your agenda.

    • Anonymous says:

      Tough question Tim, who pays your wage? Why is finger pointing futile when the very people appointed to correctly “park” ships are the ones who constantly (and interestingly frequently in these times of debate) screwing it up? Interested in a new job maybe? You should not be commenting on this in your position.

      • Tim Adam says:

        “Anonymous 26/01/2016 at 5:30 pm” really? You really think it is mature comment in civilized society to call someone’s name in a public forum – my name this time – and question my source of income and perhaps threaten my job and attempt to deny my right to comment on matters of national importance within my own country that affect my livelihood and that of the people (and their families) in the business that I lead, while you sit there cowering behind the frock-tails of anonymity? I will be delighted to answer your questions if you will grow up, learn some manners and have the intestinal fortitude to put your name to your comments and questions when you call my name in a public forum. So: If you really are confident in what you are saying and believe in your own words, then bring it on like a respectable adult and post those questions again in your own name. But until then, Proverbs 26:4 apparently applies!

  26. PPM distress Signal says:

    Yet we can’t throw our little fishing lines from the shore anywhere now without having Police and armed DOE officers breathing down our necks or confiscating our equipment and a court date. No worries Mr Paul Allen they cant do you a darn ting but beg a few dollars and hope on your generosity Because they already cut the tops off the coral to sell to some politically connected cosmetic company to grow eye lashes!!!

  27. Put in the DAMN moorings NOW.Have been saying this for years to stop these yachts from doing this over and over.What the hell is wrong with the powers that be.How hard is it to put in some huge ten ton blocks that will settle into the sand and prevent this once and for all.This is a no brainer.Any kind of permanent mooring can do the job BUT get it done.We have moorings in GT by the Wharf rest.for some time now so it does work.

  28. Conscience says:

    Let’s hear from the Port Authority on this. They seem awfully quiet nowadays, come on Mr. Zachariah and Mr.CEO. By the way this is not the ex CEO.

  29. blah blah blah says:

    Yet when Johnny Little ties up his rinky dinky 5 foot boat and damages coral measuring less than one inch, Johnny Little gets arrested, thrown in jail, and prosecuted for the destruction of Cayman’s National Treasure.

    • Anonymous says:

      You mean when a Caymanian Wanna be Captain drops a Cruise ship anchor on a reef doing his Government sponsored job he gets ………….a raise? Is that what you mean?

    • Anonymous says:

      really?…when did that happed??

      • blah blah blah says:

        Yo dimwit, were you born yesterday, or aren’t you smart enough to have figured out by now how the real world works? Let me say it nice and S L O W – rich people get away with murder while government goes after the little fish over the smallest of matters. Comprendez now? I doubt it. Now go away troll…

  30. Anonymous says:

    First of all thanks to CNS for the excellent picture. Secondly, I am really glad that the Cayman people will be well compensated for this mishap. Free windows for a decade. Oops we have that already.

  31. Anonymous says:

    SMH … what will the government do to collect their money?

    • Anonymous says:

      Fine your a** for driving 5 miles over the speed limit. This douchebag destroys our beautiful reef and the C.I government won’t or can’t fine him for the damages. They can sure as hell enforce their marine laws on local’s who use the ocean as their main source of food. If your rich you can get away with murder, anywhere.

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