Outrage as Cruise Ship Anchor Damages Coral Reef

Grand Cayman
Photo by Freeimages.com/Liz Odum

Hugh Morris, The Daily Telegraph, December 10, 2015

A video showing cruise ship anchor causing significant damage to a coral reef in the Cayman Islands has gone viral.

An investigation has been launched into how the anchor of a cruise ship was able to destroy a stretch of sensitive coral reef off the coast of the Cayman Islands .

Cayman officials say the Zenith ship anchored in a legal position off capital George Town on Tuesday, however, a local diving instructor has posted a video of the anchor and its chain “scouring across the reef”, breaking off chunks of coral and kicking up dust and silt.

Scott Prodahl told Cayman 27 that the reality of the damage was worse than that shown in the video.

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“In the video you only see a very small portion of that chain tumbling nut. In reality it’s the entire length of it tumbling and scouring across the reef,” he said.

Posting the video, which has now been watched more than 350,000 times on Youtube, Mr Prodahl said: “Another sad day for the reefs of Grand Cayman.

“We are not allowed to fish here, not allowed to hunt lobsters, you can't even pick up an empty shell, all in the name of conservation. But for some reason you can drop an anchor and wipe out a reef that took thousands of years to grow.”

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According to the Cayman Reporter, the damage is close to the site where a cruise ship caused similar damage to a huge space of reef in August last year.

However, Cayman officials have said that the Zenith, a 12-deck vessel with the capacity for more than 1,800 passengers and 600 crew and owned by Madrid-based Pullmantur Cruises, a subsidiary of Royal Caribbean International, was in a designated anchorage zone.

“The ship’s captain and the harbour pilot both acted in accordance with established procedure so there was no sign of negligence,” Scott Slaybaugh, deputy director of operations and enforcement at the department of environment, told the Cayman Reporter.

“The graphic attached shows the vessel was properly anchored well inside of the anchorage area.”

He said that from the video the damage to the reef appeared “significant”. The department of environment will conduct tests of the water to assess just how much damage has been done.

Jane Archer, Telegraph Travel's cruise expert, said: "It is very easy to condemn cruise companies when accidents like this occur but they spend a lot of time and money making sure their ships have minimal impact on the environments they travel in.

"Sadly mistakes are made and it would seem that is what has happened in this instance. Hopefully it will also be a lesson learned and cruise lines will reassess where they anchor in future when navigating around the Islands."

The Cayman Islands tourism minister, Moses Kirkconnell has confirmed in a statement that the department of environment and Cayman Islands Port Authority had launched an investigation.

Telegraph Travel has contacted both Pullmantur Cruises and Royal Caribbean International for comment.


This article was written by Hugh Morris from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.