Indonesians irate as UK cruise ship slams into coral reef

15 Mar 2017


Indonesian locals have expressed anger after a British-owned ship harmed one of the most pristine and beautiful reefs in the world.

People who live in the vicinity of the reef on Raja Ampat rely on dive tourism, and are worried about the implications of the damage.

The 90-meter Caledonian Sky ship smashed into the reef at low tide, causing damage.

The British-owned company, which owns the ship described the incident as ''unfortunate'' and said it was ''cooperating fully with the relevant authorities".

A professional diving instructor, Ruben Sauyai, who relies on the reef for his income, told the BBC he cried when the damage occurred.

"I was born here, I was in tears when I saw this damage," he said.

"The damage is huge and acute. It could take 10 to 100 years to repair it."

Sauyai explained how he and others on the island rely on the reef: "Some people work as fishermen or farmers, but mostly we work in the tourism sector."

Local tourism promoter Stay Raja Ampat posted on Facebook, ''How can this happen? Was a 12-year-old at the wheel? Anchor damage from ships like these is bad enough, but actually grounding a ship on a reef takes it to a whole new level."

"This is a very, very big loss for us," Victor Nikijuluw, the marine programme director at Conservational International Indonesia, told AFP.

"Even when (the reefs) grow back, they will not be as pristine as they were before," he added.

Scientists found that the crash resulted in the reduction or loss of diversity of eight coral genera and the destruction of the ecosystem's structural habitat.

Ricardo Tapilatu, head of the Research Center for Pacific Marine Resources at the University of Papua, said, "This is what we found during our investigation into the site. We are currently finishing the report and will submit our recommendations to the district office next week.''

According to Tapilatu, the evaluation team will recommend the company pay a hefty compensation of $800-$1,200 per square metre, for a total of $1.28 million-$1.92 million.

This is because of the special biodiversity of the reef. The money used from the claim would be put towards reviving the reef, which could take a decade.

He said, ''The government has had talks about compensation with the ship company, and I'm optimistic that this won't go to court. Unfortunately, there will not be any moves for coral revival until we get the money.''

In a statement, Noble Caledonia said it was ''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''.

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