Cargo ship crushes George Town reef

| 28/11/2016 | 48 Comments
Cayman News Service

Saga cargo ship, which ran aground in the George Town Harbour

(CNS): The Department of Environment has begun an investigation after the hull of a cargo vessel reportedly crushed a significant area of the reef in the George Town harbour when the ship ran aground. Government officials said inquiries are still at an early stage and they are now surveying the damage. Once the true environmental impact is identified, the environment ministry will be taking legal advice on the next course of action. “The public can rest assured that arrangements are being made so that the responsible party can make restitution,” a ministry spokesperson said.

They added, “The environment is Cayman’s most precious commodity, and a viable public asset that affects our way of life. Any purported damage to our natural resources is a matter of grave concern.”

The Saga cargo ship hit the reef early Friday morning offshore from Eden Rock, an area popular with snorkellers within the marine park. The ship, which is more than 100 metres long and weighs almost 300 tons, had to be pulled off the reef by a tug boat, leaving extensive damage.

This is the sixth time that ships have damaged reef in Cayman waters over the last three years, though most incidents are due to anchor damage. In October billionaire yacht owner Paul Allen settled with the Cayman Islands Government over the damage caused by his luxury boat’s anchor chain to around 14,000 square feet of reef.

How much the owner of the MV Tatoosh paid has not been disclosed but Environment Minister Wayne Panton said it was “commensurate with the loss of our public resource and facilitates a permanent mooring solution in Seven Mile Beach Park”.

see footage of reef damage  posted on Youtube by Mark Hall

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Category: Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (48)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Check your history , There has been more then 700-800 shipwrecks in the Cayman Islands. We have had more destruction of coral reefs since we got here. Get over it. We have more buoys and markers in Cayman Brac and can see them in the dark also. I have asked for over 40 years why someone doesn’t replace them when they need too? No one knows.
    With this answer, can anybody point to the destroyed reef from those ship wrecks with dynamite? Aren’t the tourists enjoying and going “wow” and “beautiful” when they see Balboa and Cali? Didn’t the water sports association plan to buy 3 ships to wreck on the reef? Why ? Wasn’t it to bring more business because divers were bored? Then why lie about building a cruise ship facility? Didn’t we build canal front property by dragline and Dredge boat in the North Sound where 3 sides have no access for particle materiel can go?
    Ladies and Gentlemen wake up and realize the reefs are dying and we better prepare for the decline of our tourism product and society as we know it. Young people are turning into drug gangs with guns. We have changed our society to follow other countries who do not have it better. We have lost discipline with school children who are not learning simple math and english ,they are not going to be bankers and lawyers. Where is the vocational schools ? When are we going to join the dots? How many dive companies are there on these 3 islands? Why are they not paying a cost of living wage but have such expensive boats? Why are they allowed to do drugs ? Do a urine test its easy to discover. Why can’t our drug users not get a job? They don’t have to collect money in the store they work on boats. Why isn’t there a school that teaches these kind of jobs in this island? Please vote for people who have a plan for the old and the youth!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Build the cruise ship dock at the public beach where it should naturally be located.

  3. Anonymous says:

    There are reefs everywhere around the island. you either decide Cayman won’t import anything ever again and survive off of the land or we accept progress and realize it is rediculous to have dive zones near our only harbour.

    • Anonymous says:

      That like saying that the only two choices we have on our roadways are cars or electric poles. Rather than saying ‘drive carefully and don’t hit the light poles’. – Or its like blaming the light pole when someone slams in to one.

    • Anonymous says:

      Right. “How dare a million year old coral reef get in the way of a freighter of progress”. XXXXX This is the biggest crash since the 220ft four-masted barquentine, Cali, was beached intentionally at Hog Sty Bay on 27th January 1949.

  4. KAM says:

    The same coral reefs that are being destroyed by the cargo/cruise ships are the same coral reefs that will be removed when the Government gives the final stamp of approval to dredge and build the dock that is NOT NEEDED. So why are they making a mountain out of a mole hill when they will be doing the same thing…

    • Anonymous says:

      Eden Rock, a living geological Golden Goose, and part of the so-called protected marine park, is way across the Harbour opposite the port and proposed pier site. It wasn’t in the direct line of fire, it “only” faced reef-choking scilica and particulate damage. It has been there for millions of years and is/was one of the top recreational scuba/snorkel sites in our islands. Residents, cruise ship day visitors, and stayover scuba divers alike cherish(ed) this spot. The latter are affluent travelers, and spend more per head than any other visitor to our islands. What do you think happens to our economy (and cruise ship product) when these special places are unapologetically and irreparably degraded or destroyed? I feel really sorry for fellow Caymanians that don’t want to understand the unique marine appeal of Cayman – the very things that define our place in the world’s tourism market. They have no clue.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Erm I’m a bit confused as to why the government is getting outraged and talking about placing hefty fines in this case, when they’ve already made the decision to destroy it by building the cruise ship dock?

  6. Not missed says:

    I wonder if the authorities will charge and make this company pay the same if not more fines as they did to Paul Allen?

  7. Anonymous says:

    And once again, nothing will be done about it. Just like illegal dirt bikes, the dump or the PR fiasco. When will someone step up and take charge? With the elections not so far away, let’s hope some new voices will be heard. Voters are ready for change. Let’s have our own rejection of the Cayman establishment and elite!

  8. Des says:

    So what is the difference between this and Dart? One was an accident and the other is intentional. Our Leaders need to be consisitant and must protect and preserve our envorinment.

  9. Rp says:

    And this is another reason why there shouldn’t be a port in such proximity to the coral reefs. These coral reefs will feed us and many future generations.

  10. Twilight Zone says:

    Are the PPM serious or is this the twilight zone?

    Perhaps the Minister and Ministry of Tourism should speak to the Minister and Ministry of Environment and DOE before they move ahead with the cruise dock project that will become an even bigger environmental disaster and white elephant project for the people of the Cayman Islands. While the PPM attempt to satisfy pockets of a handful of jewelry stores owned by Dart, Kirkonnell’s, Hamaty and Thompson’s.

    Will those businesses be paying restitution for all the unquantifiable damage to the marine environment in order to help their business interests?

  11. Anonymous says:

    Conspiracy Theorist here… Wonder who the $$ changed hands with for this ‘accident’.
    This makes me want to vomit.
    Byebye to one of THE best shore dives on this island.
    You know not what you do, you Asshat. You should never be in the wheelhouse ever again. I hope you get fired and end up working a minimum wage job for the rest of your life. That’s a small price to pay for the destruction that you caused.

  12. Anonymous says:

    If we had a dock already these things wouldn’t keep happening.

    • Anonymous says:

      For those who liked the post, you did note that the ship was pulling away from the dock? So building another dock (construction of which which, in the current published plan, is not supposed to impact, i.e, remove, Eden Rock) will in no way affect the potential for this type of accident happening.

    • Anonymous says:

      1.09 your comment may well go down as the worst on the dock ever, and a prime reason why it should not be built.

  13. Anonymous says:

    get ready for another fudge job investigation by cig……

  14. SSM345 says:

    There has been more damage to our GT reefs both by Cargo and Cruise Ships (than in all the years I have been alive on this Island) ever since they announced the plans to go ahead with the pier project.

    Why are these Captains (who are Caymanian and employees of the Port Authority) still allowed behind the wheel of these ships, either they are deliberately doing the damage or they are legally blind.

    • Bluff Patrol says:

      This damage was not caused by a Caymanian Captain / Caymanian Pilot. Other reports indicate that the ship’s own Captain stated he “did not require the services” of the Caymanian Pilot and shortly thereafter proceeded to use his ship as a battering ram on our reef.

      • Anonymous says:

        That, if true, is worse. It should be obligatory with all that reef out there, so it’s no defense.

      • Veritas says:

        Well it was not long ago that a Caymanian pilot was responsible for damage caused by a cruiseship and his company paid zero danmages.

  15. Retired Seafarer says:

    Once again the Port Authority demonstrates incompetence.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Its a pity these ships dont sink that keep hitting our reef ?

  17. Anonymous says:

    Isn’t this reef going to be destroyed by the newcruise ship berthing?

  18. Anonymous says:

    Will government make restitution to the people of Cayman when they destroy the harbour for their cruise shop dock.

  19. Anonymous says:

    And dollar signs in the eyes of politicians who can skim off the restitution. Why isnt the expenses from these catastrophes ever posted on the web.

    • Bill Bligh says:

      Yeah! How much did Paul Allen pay for his accident and WHO got the money? Why the secrecy? It makes one believe some (or all of it) went into some pockets!

      • Anonymous says:

        Don’t be a fool – ask the auditor general or make a report to the Anti-corruption Commission if you have the tiniest bit of evidence besides your misfiring synapses that somebody other than CIG got the money!

  20. Anonymous says:

    I’m confused as to how this accident occurred given these commercial container ships have been coming to the George Town port for years. What was different this time that caused the accident?

    • Allan Wilson says:

      Being too cheap and not ordering a tug with 20 knot winds!!! The requirement to use a tug should become compulsory.
      What if there were no tugs available at the dock.

      This is a problem that needs addressing urgently.

    • Anonymous says:

      Me too, especially as it should have a Cayman pilot on board…rough sea may have played a part of course, or equipment failure…

  21. Anonymous says:

    Ships destroying the reef seems to be a good little earner for Govt… Too bad the fines are kept secret and we have no idea what they are doing with the money recovered!!

    Seriously are we in CUBA?? Why is Govt so shady??

  22. Anonymous says:

    “The public can rest assured that arrangements are being made so that the responsible party can make restitution,” a ministry spokesperson said.

    Impossible. Financial compensation cannot restore one of the world’s most precious commodities.

    • Jotnar says:

      Well if the vessel was under the command of a Port Authority pilot at the time (noting as well the comments in the other coverage about supposedly missing or moved channel buoys that had been reported to the Authority and DOE but ignored) there isn’t going to be any financial compensation – other than maybe to the owners of the ship.

      • Veritas says:

        The last major damage by a cruiseship did involve a Bodden Shipping pilot, however the local company paid not a penny in damages and did not even have the decency to comment on it’s liability. Unfortuntately it seems influence still counts for more than justice in Cayman.

      • Anonymous says:

        Jotnar, there is an anomaly in maritime law. Even with a local pilot on board the skipper retains full responsibility for the ship. Some courts are starting to test that, as clearly it is arcane and incorrect. The reason you have a local pilot is that person should know his local waters better than the skipper-so they should be pursued if they get it wrong.

      • Anonymous says:

        Channel buoys? In GT Harbour? Please stop spreading the FUD.

      • Anonymous says:


        1) It was not under command of the local pilot (see Compass article 29-11-2016).
        2) There are no, and have never been any, channel buoys in GT Harbour. (So there were no missing ones to replace and no reports to ignore.)

        Sorry, but everything you have ‘heard’ is false, which is leading you to jump to false conspiracy conclusions.

    • Anonymous says:

      Agreed ding dong. That is why it is called compensation!

  23. Anonymous says:

    Clearing the way for a cruise berthing facility that nobody needs or wants?

  24. Anonymous says:

    Been a lot of “accidents” in this area in the past few years…….

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