Cruise anchor reef scare in George Town harbor

A patch of coral reef in George Town harbor suffered damage from a cruise ship anchor Wednesday, sparking concern among scuba divers and environmentalists. 

Despite video footage appearing to show live coral damaged by the ship’s anchor and chain, the Department of Environment said the ship had dropped anchor legally in a designated zone. 

Tim Austin, Department of Environment deputy director, said there were patches of surviving coral within the anchorage zone assigned for cruise ships. He said the ship, the Zenith, had been guided to anchorage zone 4, the most southerly and least commonly used of the zones in George Town harbor designated for cruise ships. 

“We have reviewed the video footage and while it is not good to look at, the truth is that this site has been previously impacted. It hasn’t been subjected to the same amount of damage as the other anchorage sites, which is why you see surviving coral colonies there.” 

He said the anchorage zones that were frequently used by cruise ships had already been extensively damaged. He said the Department of Environment would continue to monitor the situation, but no laws or regulations were broken in the incident. 

Concerned scuba diving instructors conducted an exploratory dive of the area close to the Don Foster’s and Eden Rock dive shops after noticing the ship appeared to be closer to shore than usual. 

Their footage shows anchor chain lying across seemingly healthy reef as clouds of silt cover patches of rock and coral. 

An image captured from video shot by divers in George Town harbor shows a cruise ship anchor chain on an area of coral reef.

An image captured from video shot by divers in George Town harbor shows a cruise ship anchor chain on an area of coral reef.

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  1. The Department of Environment publishes a brochure highlighting the law of the Cayman Islands wherein the DOE notes "Damaging coral by anchor, chains or any other means
    ANYWHERE in Cayman waters is prohibited." (The DOE even capitalizes the word ANYWHERE for emphasis.)

    If we area unwilling to enforce that restriction against the cruise ships then it is incumbent upon government to work to ensure that the designated anchorage areas are entirely devoid of coral. Redraw the boundary lines of the anchorages to save what coral remains.

  2. This area has been used in the past as Tim says because it was "designated for cruise ships".
    This is why we need a cruise ship facility. When you look at the video ,you can see a very large space was needed for the small ship Zenith. Can you imagine the large ships that are building in the future like Oasis of the seas?

  3. Knowing how many times that cruise ships have dropped anchor in George town harbor, and these anchor been dropped pretty much in the same places I can’t imagine that there’s much coral left in those areas. Why don’t we go back and Redraw the boundaries and laws of where cruise ship/ship can and will drop anchor. To dredge George town harbor for a cruise ship dock would be destruction of all-encompassing corals/marine environment.

  4. I watched the video yesterday you could clearly see that the chain has caused damage and yes the area looks a bit bear but it also has coral there as if the Marine life are struggling to come back and only if you are blind you cant see that in the video….I remember a couple years ago BBC.COM posted that Cruise Ships were not able to Anchor….so what changed? Why do they have to Anchor or was it due to the article that made our Government change that? We do need a solution to this problem a.s.a.p along with the Dump and Mont Trashmore….As the garbage is also taken off those Cruise Ships here when they dock and they empty waste in our waters from the Ships…..The Marine Life on this Island along with the amount of Development (Mangroves being demolished) is growing rapidly with no regard of the impact on Nature…..we are creating a concrete Jungle of no waste management and no regard for the Conservation Laws being enforced! We are only focused on money which is the Tourism and Financial Industry we are not taking any consideration over our natural resources! The Government that is in now you all need to get together and realize the long term affect this will have on your children and grand children! Preserve what we have left or everyone living here will suffer the consequences of your actions today!

  5. Yet another incident being brushed under the carpet with lack of disciplinary action.

    Government need to stick by their laws and not only implement them when it’s convenient for them – but under all cases of the laws being broken.

    Speaking of which – Isn’t George Town Harbor a Marine park? I don’t even think cruise ships should be allowed near a marine park. How are they to take our laws seriously when we don’t even take our own laws seriously?

    Don’t even get me started on the Cruise Port idea… there’s our "marine park conservation" out the window.

  6. Very interesting to now see DOE admitting that the "truth is" that the coral in George Town harbor has been previously impacted by the anchors over the past 40 years and even in the least used anchorage location, there is very little living coral. By building a cruise berthing facility, we ensure only the areas that have been almost completely destroyed already by anchors will be affected, and can prevent unnecessary further damage to living coral by achors.