Anchor reef damage massive

| 05/09/2014

(CNS): The coral reef hit by a Carnival cruise ship anchor last month is far worse than feared with over 11,000 square feet of reef mashed up as a result and no one is taking responsibility.  The department of the environment divers took to the oceans on Tuesday to get a closer look and found the area of impact was considerably larger than was first suspected. Tim Austin the DoE’s expert explained that a lot of the ships chain was sitting on the reef for a few hours causing a large area of impact. Then when the ship was relocated the chain retrieval process caused even more damage. Looking at what, if any, remedial work can be done to help the mashed reef recover the DoE has also expressed its concerns about proper measures to stop this happening again.

“Our early estimate based on Tuesday’s reconnaissance dive and video analysis of data collected on that dive puts the total impact footprint at about 1,100 square meters (11,840 sq. ft.),” Austin said. “Within that footprint approximately 500 square meters (5,380 sq. ft.) is severely impacted with near complete destruction. The remaining 600 square meters (6,458 sq. ft.) has varying degrees of impact from severe to moderate.”

The DoE’s experts are also hoping that there is potential for low key remedial efforts at the site to provide the best possible chance of recovery such as removing rubble which could cause further damage and right overturned coral heads which are still alive, placing them on stable substrate instead of a rubble field.

The damage is of major concern in itself but this is not the first time that healthy reef has taken a blow from a cruise ship anchor and the DoE is also keen to see preventative action taken.  “We are currently looking at the options available to us and are in discussion with our Ministry,” Austin added. “We want to ensure that proper measures are put in place so this doesn’t happen again.”

However, when it comes to who is responsible for this damage the lines appear blurred and it does not look as though anyone will be held accountable. The port authority has denied any responsibility and pointed to the shipping agents and the pilots who guide in the ships which the authority said are contracted directly by the cruise lines.

“The Port Authority assigns the anchorages to the cruise ships that call here,” Joseph Woods, who deals with the port’s cruise operations said. “There are four anchorages which are located and marked with lighted buoys within the defined Port Anchorage Area as per the Port Regulations.  The cruise lines engage pilots through their agent to guide their ships to the anchorages.  The pilots are not employees of the Port Authority and are not contracted by the Port Authority.”

In this case it was a Bodden Shipping port pilots who directed the ship but the Carnival Captain still had the ultimate authority for his ship and can overrule the Port Pilot and choose not to anchor if he is concerned. On the day in question it seems that while the pilot had made a concerted effort to get the ship to drop its anchor in sand it missed the intended drop site by around fifty feet. But had the anchor landed in sand the location would still have seen the chain over the reef revealing the urgent need for an improved and consistent policy regarding placing ships outside the designated anchorages.

Bodden Shipping have not responded to CNS questions regarding the incident and Carnival have said that they are in discussions about it with the shipping agent.

“Carnival Cruise Lines places extraordinary importance on preserving the pristine and sensitive marine environment in the Cayman Islands and everywhere we operate,” a spokesperson for the cruise line said in an emailed response to questions.  “We take every precaution to ensure that our ships do not cause damage to any marine habitat and all environmental-related rules and regulations are followed.  As such, when anchoring in Grand Cayman we employ the services of a local harbour pilot to provide our captains with very specific instructions on where to drop the anchor.”

The spokesperson said that on the day in question (27 August) when the ship anchored in the morning and then moved in the afternoon, the ship was under the direction of a local pilot as well as the Port Authority. 

“We are closely examining this very important matter,” the cruise line stated. ”As part of that process, we have discussed the matter with the company that supplies local pilots for us in Grand Cayman as well as shared information with the other captains in our fleet with the objective of ensuring such an incident is not repeated in the future.”

The incident which had been picked up in the first instance by divers from Don Fosters dive operation and then reported to the port and DoE caused a considerable degree of public concern about the continuing threat to the local marine environment. 

See related story on CNS

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Category: Science and Nature

About the Author ()

Comments (29)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anonymous says:

    This is why we should put the dock in red bay

  2. Anonymous says:

    Obviously the fault lies somewhere between all three parties. I'd venture that it is almost entirely the fault of the Pilot of Bodden Shipping (the mention that the "Carnival Captain has ultimate authorizy" is a red herring at best), but the port authority should certainly shoulder some blame as they are ultimately in charge.

    Bottom Line: Port Authority needs to take the initiative to train the pilots of Bodden Shipping (and any other company that does this), the pilots/shipping company should be insured for this sort of circumstance and its doubtful that we'll EVER sue a cruise line for this unless there was total negligence or system failure on their part because sueing them is just asking them to threaten us with decreasing their visits here (if they are paying millions in damages they arent making money and could much more easily stop at another port with proper docking facilities)

  3. Anonymous says:

    Decide if it's the Ship Captain or Local Pilot that should be fined (or both) and do it.  

  4. WillYaListen! says:

    Where was the Harbour Master?  What does his report say or did he forget to make one?

    Isn't it an offence to drop anchor on coral? 

    Why isn't this an issue with Carinval Board of Directors? 

    Sorry, silly questions. As if anyone but environmentalists and divers really cared.

  5. PPM Distress Signal says:

    What ever happened to those big anchors our wonderful government purchased way back which were suppose to be "permanent Moorings" for cruise ships. I guess sitting on some compound collecting rust, whilst others out here crying foul and hoping and looking for funds or easy money to be handed over or dump in their coffers by the cruise ship companies or waiting on cruise ship docks or piers by the PPM monopoly crew! A hard stretch by any means whilst or reefs are savagely destroy to feed the appetite of our inept and incompetent Government!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Someone must face criminal charges or regulatory fine over this.  Ideally both.  Anyone who thought the ship could safely anchor there is not qualified to do the job.

  7. Anonymous says:

    PLEASE!!!  The cruise ship anchors have made the GT harbor like the surface of the moon.  There is little if anything alive on the reefs there since the anchors smother the coral that might be alive.  I have done ship hull vidoes for cargo ships there and you can stick the length of your arm in what looks like sand but is just sludge.  This time a ship got caught and everyone is scrambling away from liability.  For this reason I hate to see ships anchored at Spotts because the reefs there are so beautiful.  My friends and I used to call the reefs off Spotts no mans land because they were so pristine, but now during storms the ships smash the coral.  Its a shame and dont look to the government to do anything because we cant even get the members of the LA to attend meetings much less agree on any meaningful measures.  This entire government is shameful and makes me ashamed to be Caymanian.  Nuf said!!

  8. Anonymous says:

    We need the cruise ship piers

  9. Anonymous says:

    So the Cayman Islands Port Authority does not have authority over the Cayman Islands Port!!!!!!. Wow now that is some goevernement job to have.

  10. Anonymous says:

    For three decades now the fixed anchor debate has remained unresolved, just like Mount Trashmore. It takes a crisis to enable governments to spend the money required for long-term projects that have no immediate effect on the people's pocket books.  Imagine if we forgot to plan financially for our children's education! We'd be considered totally irresponsible.

  11. Anonymous says:

    If only Bush was smart enough to get out of the way the cruise peir would be long done.  If only the Caymanian people were smart enough to vote smart They would get money making projects done instead of money sucking ones.  

  12. Dread On Dread says:

    Hmmmm dock better come faster or cruise ships will site this incident as an example of why Cayman needs to upgrade, and if not bye bye.

  13. Anonymous says:

     Put a well thought out cruise ship dock in place and you won't have this happen at all.. key words here.. "Well thought out.".

  14. Anonymous says:

    How we respond will demonstrate what sort of society we are.  As far as the people of Cayman have seen, no party has acknowledged the damage, admitted fault, or issued an apology.  The law is clear, though never, or very rarely enforced: fine those responsible!  There must be consequences for attitudes to change.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Only in Cayman could no one be held responsible for this and fined millions of dollars.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Who is going to prosecute this case? Port authority or the Marine Police? Unfortunately DOE officers have their hands tied as they STILL have no powers until the "not so new" NCL is approved in the LA.

    Panton you have gone very quiet on NCL, you got it half way there, now show some guts and get it finished. The officers need the powers to do the job that WE the people are paying them for.


  17. Anonymous says:

    Why is the Port Authority not being prosecuted? Is it not obliged to follow the law as much as any of us?

    • Anonymous says:

      Good idea, we can fine the Port Authority and then pay the fine with higher taxes.

      Perhaps detrmine where there was incompetence and ire the person reponsible withinte Port Authorty and fine the cruise ship company. 

      • Anonymous says:

        Ok, idiot, imprison them instead. Exempting persons in government from the law applied to others is about as corrupt and third world as it gets.

  18. Anonymous says:

    This is sad but perhaps inevitable under the circumstances. Every few years someone makes a mistake at the expense of the reef and it's resulting value to the environment and economy. Government seems to be serious about moving ahead with proper berthing facilities and hopefully ALL factors will be carefully assessed before a decision is made on the most suitable structure Hurry it up, please!!!

  19. Anonymous says:

    Why in all these years without having a proper dock, has the Port Authority not installed permanent buoys that the cruise lines can tie onto? I am amazed that they are still dropping anchor every time they come here. That is ridiculous! 

    I don't see how you can blame/fine Carnival or the Captain in this instance, clearly he is dropping anchor where he is advised by the local pilots. It's the Port Authority's responsibility in the end, even if the pilots are not on the payroll, they should be trained and approved by the Port Authority to do this job. As usual, they are passing the buck onto Bodden Shipping, who should share this responsibility, and at the very minimum, have some sort of insurance to cover this scenario.  

    If Cayman had the proper Port and docking facilities to begin with, this situation would never happen. Hopefully they are adding this scenario to their "Environmental Impact Assessment." 

  20. Anonymous says:

    So what’s the fine for the cruise ship that caused the damage?

    • Anonymous says:

      It was not the cruise ship captain's fault. I was the local captain's fault!! Get your facts straight before you start pointingfingers….

  21. Anonymous says:

    Thats the least of your worries. I think the island has just sunk a foot. Have yoy seen how high the water is.

  22. pmilburn says:

    The last time this happened back in 1996 I headed up a group of divers under the guidence of DOE to repair the reef as best we could and today I was looking at the same repaired reef and it has made quite a come back albeit not in all areas.This should never happen again as these reefs regardless of what certain politicians say are a very important part of our tourism product mainly as far as cruise ships go.They are not just "rocks"sitting out there .They protect the shoreline from wave action,are homes to many species of fish and provide endless hours of enjoyment for our cruise ship visitors.So lets make the effort to keep these reef areas as pristine as possible regardless of the ignorance of the chosen few who never go in the water anyway unless its to take a shower.

  23. Anon says:

    Take responsibility Cayman. This was the fault of the pilot, no question. To even remotely blame the Carnival capt. is offensive, and makes Cayman look like fools.

    • Anonymous says:

      I couldn't agree with you more. The cruise ship captain was following orders from the local captain. I believe it was a very poor judgment call on the part of the local captain. But considering who he is and who he knows, nothing will come of it! I don't wish ill on the man, but the company he works for should take responsibility and shell out the money to pay for the repairs!! But again, probably nothing will come of that either….what a shame really!

  24. Anonyanmous says:

    This is really bad, perfect example of why we need a cruise berthing facility ASAP.

  25. Just Sayin' says:

    I really hope turtle nests have been recorded in that area.