Allen’s company quibbles over reef damage

| 19/02/2016 | 11 Comments
Cayman News Service

MV Tatoosh

(CNS): Marine experts have begun salvage work to repair the extensive damage to corals off Seven Mile Beach by the anchor chain of billionaire Paul Allen’s yacht, MV Tatoosh, last month. While Allen’s company, Vulcan Inc., is disputing their level of culpability and the course of action for the repair, the Department of Environment has received a comprehensive assessment of the injury site by an independent coral restoration expert and is pressing on regardless, stressing the imperative of quick action to save as much coral as possible.

“We now are in the position to begin emergency caching of dislodged corals, whose survival is at immediate risk the longer they remain unattached,” DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie said. “This temporary stabilisation and removal of coral to a safe location (caching) is typically carried out following completion of an injury assessment to minimise further impact to the living tissue of corals that are candidates for reattachment.”

The DoE received the final report by William Precht of Dial Cordy and Associates on Tuesday and began emergency salvage work Wednesday.

“Given that Vulcan Inc., the owner of the MV Tatoosh, disputes the DoE’s initial assessment of the scale of the damage, and furthermore questions whether the MV Tatoosh is the source of the damage, the DoE contracted with Dial Cordy to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the injured site,” Ebanks-Petrie explained. “We took this action in order to have independent documentation and verification of the extent and degree of damage and also of the timing of the injuries to the coral. Mr Precht’s findings support the DoE’s initial assessment as to the damaged area and the cause of the damage.”

Cayman News Service

Reef damaged by the MV Tatoosh

Starting the salvage work now means that the remaining living coral tissue could be saved and the time it takes for recovery of the site may be reduced and further damage from future storms minimised, she said.

The DoE and Vulcan have been in discussions since the coral damage on 14 January. Ebanks-Petrie said her department received an initial plan for the remediation from Allen’s company at 10pm on Wednesday, 3 February, and the DoE responded on 5 February, with further drafts exchanged since. However, the DoE is still waiting for Vulcan to respond to proposed changes to the plan relating to the scope and source of damage, the estimated length of the restoration period and Vulcan’s funding of an independent agent to oversee and monitor the restoration work.

“Because Vulcan continues to disagree with the scale and source of damage, as well as the length of time required for the restoration effort, details of the remediation plan have not been finalised,” she said.

Representatives of Polaris Applied Sciences Inc., a coral reef restoration firm contracted by Vulcan to assess the damaged coral after the incident, were in Cayman on Sunday, 14 February, and observed and assisted the DoE with the emergency salvage work on Tuesday evening. Ebanks-Petrie said this would ensure that the emergency salvage works initiated by the Cayman Islands Government would be compatible with the methodology Polaris intends to employ when the dispute is resolved and they take over restoration work.

But in a statement released Thursday evening, Vulcan blamed the DoE for the delay, claiming that Paul Allen and his representatives at Vulcan had taken swift steps  to develop a remediation plan, even though it had been difficult to determine what, if any, actual damage was caused by the Tatoosh.

With no mention of Vulcan’s quibbling over culpability and the scope of the plan, the firm stated, “We continue to impress on the department the urgency of approving the full remediation plan so that work may continue. The department has yet to do so, despite the clear agreement between the experts on almost all technical aspects, and thereby delaying repair of the coral. We are ready and willing to continue the work of the last two days and are hopeful the remediation plan can now be promptly approved and implemented in the same spirit of collaboration and cooperation as was demonstrated over the past two days.

“There is nothing more important than the pressing need to save and restore the damaged coral, and Paul Allen and Vulcan continue to stand ready to do our part,” the billionaire’s company added.

With work already underway, the Port Authority of the Cayman Islands has placed a temporary anchor restriction for all vessels within 200 yards of the reef damage site located in the West Bay Replenishment Zone. See details here.

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Category: Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (11)

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  1. Jotnar says:

    So the Port Authority is no issuing a formal notice telling people not to anchor – on a temporary basis mind you – on the spot where the anchor damage took place? so they are saying that Tatoosh was free to anchor there in the first place, before they issued the notice? Or that its a no anchor zone ,in which case why do they need to issue a notice on a temporary basis? Something smells.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Funny, I always thought Vulcan’s were logical and believed in the greater good.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I take it that you are accustomed to this corrupt practice. What you are suggesting smacks of bribery . Isn’t your comment therefore a crime i.e inciting someone to commit the crime of bribery?

  4. Anonymous says:

    @1:30pm 19/2 I guess it worked for you,care to tell us who you bribed?

  5. Anonymous says:

    The Department of Environment are not so quick to go public when they are sweeping culpability under a carpet to protect locals.

  6. Anonymous says:

    While I don’t know what the actual Port Authority actually told the Captain, I would guess the Captain was given a general area where he could anchor.

    A Captain is responsible for his craft, period. If the Port Authority had told the Captain to anchor in an area the Captain thought was unsafe he would have questioned it.

    Any Captain, worth his salt, knows not to drop anchor on coral, but rather on sand around it.

  7. Turtle says:

    Oh, forgot to ask, isn’t this the location they are going to build that new port, so the reef would have been destroyed anyway by the PPM? Just a question! !!

    • Anonymous says:

      The West Bay Replenishment Zone is miles north of George Town, and some of the best scuba diving in this hemisphere. Captains can feel and see on GPS if an anchor isn’t holding in 2016. You can bet they knew when the anchor pulled, as the Captain has already admitted in other accounts.

  8. Turtle says:

    I would like to know if there have been discussions with the port authority as they have admitted they instructed the yatch to drop anchor at this location.
    I know the winds changed, to me it is not the fault of the capt to pick his anchor up and move. The port authority staff should have known this area and reef, therefore asking this yatch to be relocated.
    This is not the first time the PA has done this.

    Very simple no accountability on CI authorities.

    I am very happy to see the owner of this yatch willing to assist, if me worth billions I would fight this till the end, this is because I am a caymanian and this inconvenience has to stop ASAP! !!!!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      So Turtle, according to your logic even if a storm had been approaching and the Captain knew that it was best for him to pull up anchor and ride out the storm, you believe he should have waited until told by the Port Authority to do so. Certainly the Captain should have checked out his situation when the winds changed and moved,yet if we follow your logic he probably would have drifted ashore or up on a reef, while waiting for instructions to move.

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