Raja Ampat District Government stated that the shipwreck of Caledonian Sky, which was carrying hundreds of tourists and 79 crew members, was due to the negligence of the captain of the cruise ship.
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The British-owned cruise ship MV Caledonian Sky, which ran aground onto a coral reef off Raja Ampat District in West Papua on March 4, 2017, has brought a huge loss to the district.

Raja Ampat District Government stated that the shipwreck of Caledonian Sky, which was carrying hundreds of tourists and 79 crew members, was due to the negligence of the captain of the cruise ship.

The 4,290-tonne ship, which was on a 16-night journey from Papua New Guinea to the Philippines, damaged approximately 1.3 hectares of coral at a diving site known as Crossover Reef in Raja Ampat.

The accident resulted in the destruction of the ecosystems structural habitat and the reduction or loss of diversity of eight coral genera, including acropora, porites, montipora, and stylophora.

Raja Ampat Tourism Office Chief Yusdi Lamatenggo remarked in West Papua provincial city of Sorong on Wednesday that the 90-meter ship, owned by tour operator Noble Caledonia, came to the island of Gan for bird-watching but was unnoticed by the local government.

Lamatenggo noted that Raja Ampat District Government learned of the ship after reports that it ran aground and inflicted significant damage to one of the worlds most bio-diverse reefs, which have been voted among the best diving spots in the world.

The results of field investigations conducted by the local government indicated that the vessel entered Gam island through the proper channels, but followed the wrong path and ran aground after the bird-watching activity.

Hence, he remarked that the government considered the incident to be caused by the negligence of the captain of the sophisticated ship, which had highly sophisticated detection tools.

An official evaluation team revealed that the Caledonian Sky cruise ship had been caught in low tide despite being equipped with GPS and radar instruments.

Therefore, the Government of Indonesia will immediately summon the ship and file a lawsuit related to the case of the damage to coral reefs in the waters of Raja Ampat.

"The lawsuit will soon be made. The Caledonian Sky is now in the Philippines, and we will make a warrant for summoning and examination," the Maritime and Fisheries Ministry Director General for Sea Space Management, Brahmantya Satyamurti Poerwadi, remarked in a press conference in Jakarta on Wednesday.

Further, Lamatenggo, the Raja Ampat Tourism Office chief, said that the central government has formed an integrated team to deal with the damage of coral reefs caused by the ship.

According to him, the team was formed by Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs with the involvement of Maritime and Fisheries Ministry, Environment and Forestry Ministry, Transportation Ministry, Tourism Ministry, and the police.

The integrated team will seek accountability on the part of the cruise ship for the damage of coral reefs.

"In addition, Raja Ampat District Government has also formed an assessment team to conduct studies as well as calculate the losses incurred due to the damage of the coral reefs," he revealed.

In the meantime, Ricardo F Tapilatu, the head of the Research Center for Pacific Marine Resources at the University of Papua, has said on separate occasion that the assessment team will recommend the company pay compensation of US$800-$1,200 per square meter.

Tapilatu noted that if the ships owner disagrees with the claim, then the government will take it to court. If the company and government can reach an agreement, it will likely take a year or two for the district administration to receive the cash.

He said the money would be used to revive the reef, a process which could take a decade; set more mooring buoys across the area to prevent ships from sailing into shallow zones; and to map out sailing tracks.

According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), tour operator Noble Caledonia, which owns the Caledonian Sky, said in a statement that it supported the investigation and vowed to cooperate.

"Noble Caledonia is firmly committed to the protection of the environment, which is why it is imperative that the incident must be fully investigated, understood, and any lessons learned incorporated in operating procedures," it said.

There has been an outrage in the local tourism industry, which relies on Raja Ampats natural wonders for its survival.

Environmental group Conservation International said that the Bahamas-flagged ship had gone into an area that it should not have entered due to the unique coral reefs.

Known as the most biodiverse marine habitat on earth, the Indonesian archipelago of Raja Ampat is an ideal destination for both local and foreign tourists to relax and unwind.

The visitors have the opportunity to witness a multitude of marine habitats and coral reefs in one glance without having to swim a stroke.(*)

Reporter: Otniel Tamindael
Editor: Heru Purwanto
Copyright © ANTARA 2017