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Scale of Damage to Raja Ampat Reef Revealed

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Stephanie Venables/Marine Megafauna Foundation

After the cruise ship MV Caledonian Sky ran aground on a coral reef near Kri island, Raja Ampat, local authorities have had a chance to assess the environmental impact of the collision.

It is estimated that around 1,600 square metres of reef has been destroyed by the 90m long, 4,290-tonne ship. The team found that the Caledonian Sky had been caught by the low tide before crashing into the reef, despite being outfitted with the latest GPS positioning equipment.

To make matters worse, Ricardo Tapilatu, head of the Research Center for Pacific Marine Resources at the University of Papua told the Mongabay Environmental Journal that '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. They should’ve waited for high tide.'

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Stephanie Venables/Marine Megafauna Foundation

A statement from Noble Caledonia, the British cruise specialist and owner of the Caledonian Sky, described the incident as ‘unfortunate’ but added that it is working with the Indonesian government to establish a ‘fair and realistic’ financial settlement to cover the damage. The statement continues to say that ‘Noble Caledonia has established a fund with the aim of helping the local population and contributing to the repair of the reef.’

The ship had 102 passengers aboard - mostly from the UK for a bird watching cruise. The price of the 16-day trip start at £10,000  per passenger.

Initial figures recommended by the evaluation team suggest that compensation in the region of $800 – $1,200 per sq m should be paid by the cruise company, as the reef is part of a national park and also one of the world’s most spectacular dive sites.

The damage to the slow-growing hard corals is likely to take decades to repair, and the compensation fund will be used to assist with the rehabilitation of the reef, along with the possibility of installing buoys to prevent ships from sailing too close to the reef in future. 

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