A British cruise ship smashed into a coral reef off Indonesia believed to be one of the most biodiverse in the world, causing significant damage to almost a mile of the reef.
The Caledonian Sky, which flies a Bahamian flag, ran aground on the reef in the western Indonesian archipelago of Raja Ampat on March 4, forcing the evacuation of 118 passengers and crew members, The National Post Reported. More damage was caused to the reef when a tugboat arrived to pull the ship away.
“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,” Ricardo Tapilatu of the Research Center for Pacific Marine Resources at the University of Papua told the Mongabay environmental news site. “They should’ve waited for high tide.”
The local tourism office Stay Raja Ampat asked on its Facebook page: “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.”
The ship was largely undamaged and continued its cruise once it was pulled from the reef and passengers were reloaded.
A local Indonesian evaluation team estimates it could cost as much as $2 million to repair the reef damage and to install more buoys to keep cruise ships away from the fragile structure. The reef is a popular dive site and part of a national park.
A spokesman for cruise ship company Noble Caledonia called the accident “unfortunate.” The company 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 government has contacted the company about compensation, according to Tapilatu.
The vessel set sail from Papua New Guinea Feb. 25 and is scheduled to arrive in Manila on March 14.