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British-owned cruise ship destroys coral reefs, faces $1.92m fine

Staff Writer |
Caledonian Sky, a Bahamian-flagged cruise ship, ran aground and smashed into one of the world's most renowned coral reefs at Raja Ampat in Indonesia last week.

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The 205-foot vessel, which is owned by British tour operator Noble Caledonia, ran into the reef in an uncharted shoal in West Papua province Saturday.

It damaged approximately 17,000 square feet of coral at a diving site known as Crossover Reef.

The 4,700-ton Caledonian Sky was carrying 102 passengers and 79 crew on a 16-night cruise from Papua New Guinea to the Philippines. It had completed a bird-watching trip on Waigeo Island.

The ship was caught in low tide despite GPS and radar instruments, Ricardo Tapilatu, head of the Research Center for Pacific Marine Resources at the University of Papua, said to The Guardian.

"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," Tapilatu said. "They should've waited for high tide" to refloat the vessel.

Local lodging operator 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."

Investigators will recommend the company pay $1.2 million to $1.92 million because it is in a popular dive site and occurred in a national park, Tapilatu said.

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