Indonesia to assess the damage suffered by coral reefs recently hit by a Bahamian-flag ship

The Caledonian Sky in Raja Ampat, Indonesia – Hugo Mattsson/Courtesy of Facebook

Jayapura, Jubi – A British-owned, Bahamian-flagged Noble Caledonia cruise ship sailed into 1,600 metres of coral reef in the western Indonesian archipelago of Raja Ampat on March 4, damaging the structural stability of the underwater environment.

The 114-passenger, 90-metre Caledonian Sky ran aground before evacuating all passengers from the ship and being pulled back out to sea, Ricardo Tapilatu of the Research Center for Pacific Marine Resources at the University of Papua said.

“A tugboat from Sorong city was deployed to help refloat the cruise ship, which is something that shouldn’t have happened because it damaged the reef even worse,” Tapilatu told The Guardian. “They should’ve waited for high tide,” he said.

By pulling the 4,200-tonne cruise-liner immediately back out, the ship operators caused even more harm to one of the world’s most populous and diverse ecosystems.

Meanwhile, an investigation has been launched amidst concern about damage caused to the coral reef near Kri Island, off Raja Ampat, and how the ship ran aground. On its Facebook page, the local tourism organisation Stay Raja Ampat asked: “How can this happen? Anchor damage from ships like these is bad enough, but actually grounding a ship on a reef takes it to a whole new level.”
In a statement released by the British-owned small cruise specialist, a spokesperson said Noble Caledonia was co-operating fully with the relevant investigating authorities.

Describing the incident as “unfortunate,” the spokesperson said: “Noble Caledonia is firmly committed to protection of the environment, which is why it is imperative that the reasons for it are fully investigated, understood and any lessons learned incorporated in operating procedures”.

He said the ship was operating in a remote area off Kri Island when it grounded on an unchartered shoal.

“The relevant authorities were immediately informed, and divers inspected the underwater part of the hull,” he said.

“The inspection revealed that the hull was undamaged and remained intact. The ship did not take on water, nor was any pollution reported as a result of the grounding. The vessel was relfloated on the next tide and was anchored safely nearby to allow a full assessment of the hull and machinery to be made. That inspection revealed nothing more than superficial damage and after liaison with the relevant local authorities, the ship sailed to take up a slightly revised version of her planned itinerary.”

Indonesia Marine and Fisheries Ministry sent a team to Raja Ampat, West Papua, to assess the damage suffered by coral reefs recently hit by a Bahamian-flag ship the Caledonian Sky.

“The team has departed. We conducted an evaluation of the damages immediately after the incident,” said Chief of Cooperation and Public Information Bureau of the Ministry Lily Aprilya when contacted by Tempo on Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Directorate of Marine Spatial and the Directorate General of Marine and Fisheries Resources Supervision were also included in the team, which had just arrived on Sunday, March 12, 2017.
Before the Ministry’s team had arrived, a local team from Sorong and the Kupang Marine Conservation Area National Agency together with a task force of the Directorate General of Marine and Fisheries Resources Supervision has been working on assessing the damage suffered by the coral reefs a few days ago.

Director General of Marine Spatial Bramantya Satyamurti said that the team will hold a meeting with other respective parties. “We will prepare steps that will be taken by the government against the cruise ship,” Bramantya said. (*)