Cargo ship owners admit crushing reef

| 05/12/2016 | 21 Comments

(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.

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Category: Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (21)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    If the ship owners and chartering parties have truly admitted and “owned-up” to their responsibility, why are their names redacted from CNS article?

  2. Retired seaman says:

    1. This is not a large ship; as ships go it is tiny.

    2. A ship cannot be steered when going astern (a boat: yes, a single-screw ship: no).

    3. It is entirely possible that the wind caused the bow to turn Southwards, but if the ship continued to go astern the bow would probably have merely glanced off the reef.

    4. If I had been the Captain, I would have immediately have ‘noted protest’ (a specific maritime legal procedure) due to the lack of marker buoys.

    • Anonymous says:

      I would think that the “noted protest” over the missing marker buoys would be a sufficient defense, but you might also state that the dense fog made it impossible to see the shoreline and hence you had no way of knowing where you were. Too bad it violates the “terms of service” of this site to give an opinion on you.

  3. SSM345 says:

    If I were the owner of Eden Rock, I know what I would be doing right about now…..That’s their business completed destroyed. Seems it came sooner than having to wait for the cruise pier to do it.

  4. Anonymous says:

    the ship appropriately named. SAGA … “Boy what a SAGA” . No PUN intended. Its a bad thing that happened, truly is a SAGA. It will never be the same.

  5. Eastern Key Card says:

    The PPM taking credit for doing absolutely nothing to prevent this DOE blaming the Port Authority WOW! Wayne Wonder now pipes up when DOE now Collects the Money for the Damage. Whoever votes these jokers back in deserves whatever they get. They have done absolutely nothing after the Paul Allen yacht’s incident to prevent it reoccurring again that what’s pretty obvious from this terrible situation. Too busy taking care of high finance and the UK’s agenda eh Wayne your travel bonus mileage must be worth quite a pretty penny now in first class travel by now bro. You and Alden will need a real break from politics after this 4 years of doing absolutely nothing for our islands.

    • Anonymous says:

      Make sure you carry around a picture of your licence plate with you so you can remember how to spell your name

  6. SKEPTICAL says:

    Eden Rock dive shop must have a potential claim for loss of future business. Apart from the spectacular diving there, it had the exceptional aspect of being a shore dive from only a few yards away.
    One of the continual failures of Cayman governments has been their refusal to implement a programme of Risk Assessment to protect valuable tourist infrastructure, and/or protect people from their own silly actions. Such as, strict regulations for the operation of large vessels in the GT harbour area. Or, on a very specific issue – the lack of comprehensive fire safety/fighting equipment at Jackson Point fuel terminal. There has not been any official confirmation that the oil companies involved have complied with the experts’ recommendations.
    Risk Assessment can be taken to ludicrous levels, but there are some very obvious and sensible areas which should be adressed.

    • Anonymous says:

      The dive shop wouldn’t have a claim for loss as the damage wasnt to their property. Its really going to hurt their business though. Its one of the best, safe shore dives for beginning divers.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Mount Tashmore and Coral Trashmore in the making…

  8. Anonymous says:

    I have two questions.

    1. Where are the standard operational protocols that require ships to follow a pre-planned standardized route for entry, and exit to the port.

    2. Where are the standardized safe turning zones for all large ships?

  9. Anonymous says:

    Who are the owners ??

  10. Anonymous says:

    This was one of the most damaging crashes in Cayman Islands Marine History. The Harbour region has not seen anything on this scale since the Cali was intentionally beached at Hoggs Sty on Jan 9, 1948. Where is the public apology? Where are the punitive fines from our spineless politicians. XXXXXX should have the book thrown at them, or why pretend to have Marine Laws at all?

  11. Anonymous says:

    So the DOE. and the port authority walkes away without having to take any responsibility for their blunders once again, only in cayman.

    • Anonymous says:

      Neither agency were piloting the ship that crashed, why are they at fault? It has been established that the missing swimmer markers were not markers for marine traffic. Their absence does not excuse a qualified marine Captain from crashing into a well-mapped reef that has been there for millions of years. The Captain and the ship owners must answer for this.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Absolutely disgusting what this ship captain has done to this reef. I snorkeled it over the weekend and it is completely trashed. This is worse than the anchor chain damage from the cruise ship and Paul Allen’s Yacht damage combined. I mean, the site is completely leveled with numerous corals and rock ripped off the reef. All the swim throughs now look treacherous and likely someone will end up being hurt or killed trying to swim through them. I am really just beside myself at how careless this captain was. There is no reason whatsoever that cargo ship needed to turn so close to shore.

    Such a shame too because this was one of the last, truly great shore dives on this island and now it’s gone forever. I don’t see how Polaris can possibly repair this to look half as good as it used to. I will volunteer my time to the reconstruction but I honestly don’t see where you can start to try and fix this…

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t think he tried to turn so close to shore. He overloaded the bow of the ship with too many containers and the 20+kts of wind caught them like a sail and blew the bow onto shore. He should have been assisted by the tug boat whilst departing.

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