(CNS): The owners of the 100-metre cargo vessel, Saga, that ran aground in George Town Harbour off Eden Rock last month have admitted crushing the reef and have engaged marine experts to assess the damage and remove the rubble and coral that cannot be reattached. Environment Minister Wayne Panton said the company had “stepped up and taken responsibility” and the priority now was assessing the extent of the damage.
Panton said the experts will be assessing the degree of coral loss and what can be restored before government can come to an agreement with the insurance company and the level of compensation required.
It is not entirely clear how the ship ran aground but it appears to be due to human error and a miscalculation on the part of the captain as he pulled out of the harbour. Although he could have sought the assistance of the Port Authority of the Cayman Islands, government officials confirmed that he did not make a request. As he turned the ship, the captain steered the bow into the reef, where the 3,000-ton vessel became stuck. Two tug boats responded from the port and were able to quickly pull the Saga from the reef but not before significant damage to the Eden Rock reef system.
Experts have said the damage needs addressing quickly because in addition to the coral that has already been crushed or fallen off, there is more that is clinging on precariously, presenting further challenges and dangers to divers.
Panton said that the ship’s owners have engaged Polaris Applied Science, the same firm that worked on the damage caused to the reef off Seven Mile Beach by billionaire Paul Allen’s luxury yacht last year, to assess the damage and work out what restoration work, however limited, can be undertaken. But he said that ultimately an agreement will be reached between the Cayman government and the owners on potential financial restitution as well.
However, this sort of damage is hard to quantify, and while money can help with what restoration work can be done, no amount of cash can replace the lost coral.