In Summary Court last Thursday, Magistrate Grace Donalds fined Scott Development Company Ltd. $69,000 for anchoring a vessel in excess of 60 feet in a marine park without permission.
The offence occurred on 4 November 2002 in the vicinity of Scott’s Dock in Cayman Brac. The vessel was the Sloman Rover, which was bringing in a load of cement.
The Marline Conservation Law (Marine Parks) Regulations detail what is allowed and prohibited in marine park zones. Provisions are set out for the anchoring of vessels not exceeding 60 feet. The Sloman Rover was approximately 315 feet in length and therefore needed permission.
Since March 2003 the matter had been before various magistrates both in Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac over 40 times.
A representative of the company had entered a not guilty plea on the basis that the Deputy Port Director gave permission for the vessel to anchor, as the law does allow in an emergency situation.
However, Deputy Director Clement Reid gave evidence during the trial and said he did not give permission.
Evidence also included an agreement between Scott Development and Government in which the company accepted liability for any damage. This agreement allowed the vessel to leave Cayman.
Magistrate Donalds delivered her verdict in June this year and sentencing was adjourned.
Senior Crown Counsel Trevor Ward, who conducted the case for the prosecution, submitted to the court a case in which a boat captain was fined $150,000 because his anchor had damaged coral in an area covering 130 square metres (Caymanian Compass, 5 March 2001)
Magistrate Donalds also presided in that case. The boat captain had pleaded ‘guilty with mitigation’.
Mr. Ward said the 2001 fine amounted to $1,153.85 per square metre. That rate, applied to the 59.83 square metres impacted in the Scott Development case, would amount to $69,069.46.
He suggested this should be the minimum starting point, given the passage of seven years. He also provided information indicating that this rate was 51 per cent lower than damages recovered in cases in the Florida Keys.
Defence Attorney John Furniss said he had advised his client of the likely penalty because of that precedent case. He urged the court to say it was not necessary to go beyond that amount, ‘which is a considerable sum, indeed.’
The magistrate imposed the fine of $69,000, with a distress warrant to be issued against the company if the fine were not paid within 12 months. Mr. Furniss said it would be paid at the rate of $5,000 per month, with more toward the end of the 12 months.
There was a second area of coral damage, but the magistrate found that Scott Development was not liable for it.