Coral reef controversy escalates over Caledonian Sky incident

Cruise ship Caledonian Sky, which was quickly refloated after it ran aground on a coral reef off Indonesia on March 4th, is now on its way to Manila in the Philippines. But controversy about damage caused to the reef shoal is growing.

At the time it was reported that Caledonian Sky had run aground on an unchartered reef shoal off Kri Island, Indonesia while on a 16-night cruise from Papua New Guinea to the Philippines, with 102 passengers and 79 crew members on board. The vessel was successfully refloated at the next high tide with the assistance of a tug and then anchored nearby for special survey and underwater inspection. The damage incurred was minor and did not cause any danger to the seaworthiness or stability of the vessel. Caledonian Sky resumed its voyage and is now likely to arrive in Manila on March 14th.

Noble Caledonia spokesman said that it was “firmly committed to the protection of the environment and as such deeply regrets any damage caused to the reef.” The spokesman added that Noble Caledonia’s insurers will be working with the Indonesian Government, local officials and environmental specialists to come to an agreement in relation to the damage done to the reef.

Caledonian Sky apparently was coming to the end of a bird-watching tourism trip on Waigeo Island when it veered slightly off course, running aground during low tide and smashing through the coral reefs. An early official evaluation last week said the incident had damaged approximately 1,600 sq m of coral in one of the world’s most beautiful reefs. Videos recorded by various divers show that the reefs had been eroded by the hull, leaving large bleached scratches. Local environmentalists have now raised the publicity stakes, with articles on the incident being covered by Reuters and the BBC.

Ricardo Tapilatu, head of the Research Centre for Pacific Marine Resources at the University of Papua, part of the official evaluation team, said the ship had been caught in low tide despite being equipped with GPS and radar instruments. “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 more,” Mr Tapilatu told environmental news site Mongabay. “They should have waited for high tide” to refloat the vessel.

Tapilatu has asserted that the company should pay between $1.28m and $1.92m in compensation.

An online petition has been launched demanding that Noble Caledonia doesn’t just give financial compensation but is also present to repair the destruction.

According to database, Caledonian Sky is covered by Skuld Oslo 2 for member Salén Ship Management AB.