According to academics and environmental groups working in the region, the damage caused by a British-owned cruise ship that accidentally ran ashore on a pristine Indonesian coral reef could total more than $18 million. Regional Technical Implementing Unit (UPTD), Researchers for Conservation International Indonesia (CII) and the Papua State University found that the grounding of the 295-foot Caledonian Sky cruise ship weighing 4,200 tons and carrying 102 passengers caused massive damage to several endemic reefs that are unique to Raja Ampat, a remote and idyllic island chain west of Indonesia’s Papua province.
“The variety of reefs that were damaged by the ship are Pavites, Favia, Montipora, Acropora, Genus Porites, Poicilopora, Tubastrea and Stylopora. Ricardo TapiIatu, the head of research told the Jakarta Post that it will take decades to restore the reefs. He further added that the damaged area stretched for more than 145,000-square-miles. The Caledonian Sky, closely-held by British company Noble Caledonia, was finishing a bird-watching trip on Waigeo Island on March 4 when it veered slightly off course and slammed into the reef. An investigation into the incident found that the cruise ship purportedly entered the area without consulting local guides and that ship’s crew only relied on GPS navigation without considering the tide.
Noble Caledonia called it as an “unfortunate” accident and said that the company is “firmly committed to the protection of the environment” and fully backed an investigation, but made no mention of compensation. He further added, The ship itself “did not take on water, nor was any pollution reported as a result of the grounding.”
Indonesia’s Forestry and Environment Ministry has deployed its staff to identify the damaged coral reefs and collect evidence that they will use to demand compensation from the British company. Locals in Raja Ampat say that besides the damage to the reef, the accident has also put a major strain on the local economy, which relies heavily on snorkeling and scuba-diving tourism. Coral reefs are the main attraction for many tourists in the area. Laura Resti, from Raja Ampat’s Homestay association, said, “It is counterproductive for our tourism prospects. We have tried to conserve those coral reefs for a long time, and just within few hours they were gone”. “I feel so ashamed and sad to take tourists there”, she further added.