Spat deepens between DoE and Paul Allen

Paul Allen's yacht Tatoosh. - PHOTO: JAMES WHITTAKER

Paul Allen’s company Vulcan Inc. issued a statement Saturday accusing Cayman’s Department of Environment of “delaying approving or implementing action” on a remediation plan to repair a large swath of coral allegedly damaged by the anchor of Mr. Allen’s yacht, MV/Tatoosh, in mid-January.

The statement also avoided the issue of liability for the time being.

“Paul G. Allen and Vulcan’s focus is on repairing the coral, and we have stood ready and willing to do so for more than two weeks in the area identified by the Cayman Islands Department of Environment and its experts,” the statement read. “We are ready to put aside issues of liability, to be resolved later, to fix the coral now before it degrades further. By contrast, the Department has continued to delay approving or implementing action on the remediation plan, while attempting to impose broad obligations on Vulcan that have no basis in Caymanian law.”

Emergency salvage work began last week to repair an area of coral reef impacted by the Microsoft co-founder’s mega-yacht, despite the ongoing dispute between the billionaire and the Department of Environment over the scale and source of the damage.

DoE staff began the most urgent work after receiving an independent coral restoration expert’s assessment of the site.

The department said it was still in discussions with Paul Allen’s company Vulcan Inc. over its proposed remediation plan.

In its statement, Vulcan, expressed frustration at the failure of the DoE to sanction its experts to get on with the work, suggesting that delays impacted the likely success of the project.

“The issues cited by the Cayman government as reasons for the continued delay are insufficient to prevent this remediation from moving ahead,” the statement said. “We have agreed on the methodology to be followed, the physical area to be repaired, and the materials to be used. We once again call on the Department to join us now in the repair effort of the coral reef, which is the most pressing matter at this time.”

Gina Ebanks-Petrie, director of the DoE, said last week the most crucial time-sensitive work was now being done by its staff as the two parties attempt to come to a satisfactory agreement. She said the delays were down to disagreement over the likely scope of the work.

“Because Vulcan continues to disagree with the scale and source of damage, as well as the length of time required for the restoration effort, details of the remediation plan have not been finalized,” she said.

Vulcan is understood to have offered to fund the coral restoration project, though it has not accepted that Mr. Allen’s yacht was responsible for the damage, and appears to dispute the DoE’s assessment of the scale of the destruction.

Ms. Ebanks-Petrie said Polaris Applied Sciences, the reef restoration experts hired by Vulcan, had observed and assisted with the initial emergency salvage works last week. The firm will take over the restoration work if and when the DoE and Vulcan resolve their issues and sign a formal agreement.

She added that an independent expert had now verified the department’s initial assessment – that an area of around 13,000 square feet, the size of an Olympic swimming pool, was impacted, and 80 percent of the coral in that area was destroyed.

“Given that Vulcan Inc., the owner of the M/V Tatoosh, disputes the DoE’s initial assessment of the scale of the damage, and furthermore questions whether the M/V Tatoosh is the source of the damage, the DoE contracted with Dial Cordy to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the injured site,” Ms. Ebanks-Petrie said.

“We took this action in order to have independent documentation and verification of the extent and degree of damage, and also of the timing of the injuries to the coral. The findings support the DoE’s initial assessment as to the damaged area, and the cause of the damage,” she said Friday.

In a statement Thursday, Vulcan Inc. said it was cooperating with restoration work and urged the DoE to get on with approving its full plan.

The company said it had dispatched experts to the Cayman Islands, anticipating swift approval of its remediation plan.

“Unfortunately, more than two weeks have passed and although we have responded promptly and collaboratively to every request from the department on our plan, local officials have not yet given final approval to begin the work.”

It urged the DoE, in its public statement, to swiftly approve its plan, saying the company was ready to do its part, despite continuing to insist Mr. Allen’s yacht was not necessarily the cause of the damage.

Ms. Ebanks-Petrie said it had responded to Vulcan’s initial proposal within two days and subsequent drafts of the remediation plan had been exchanged and reviewed since that point.

She said the department was now waiting for Vulcan to respond to its requests for changes to the proposal relating to the scope and source of damage, the estimated length of the restoration period and Vulcan’s funding of an independent agent to oversee and monitor the restoration work.

If you value our service, if you have turned to us in the past few days or weeks for verified, factual updates, if you have watched our live streaming of press conferences or sent an article to a friend... please consider a donation. Quality local journalism was at risk before the coronavirus crisis. It is now deeply threatened. Even a small amount can go a long way to sustaining our mission of informing the public. We need our readers’ financial support now more than ever.



  1. Perhaps I haven’t understood this case.

    But I thought that the yacht moored where it was directed to moor by the port authority. Same situation as with that cruise ship.

    The water is about 50 ft deep at that spot and crystal clear. I have dived it many times myself. I just don’t understand why the port authority skipper would have directed them to drop anchor there.

    Have they commented or been asked about this at all?

  2. So basically what it sounds like this comes down to is the DOE want’s Vulcan to say they are completely responsible for all the damage to that site and not the Port Authority. If they have proof that the damage was done by the Tatoosh, why not just put in on the table. It’s already been revealed that they anchored where they were told and I find very likely that there was already damage to the same location from other similar mistakes. The difference here is that they know Paul Allen has deep pockets and a huge love for the ocean so they are just trying to exploit the situation as get as much out of it as they can hopping he will just put out the money to avoid having his name involved with any kind of Ocean Destruction.

    What I think happened here is the Tatoosh was told to drop anchor there by the Port Authority, but a diver happened to be there this time a see the anchor had landed on Coral and alerted the Tatoosh who moved the boat and started and inquiry into what may have been damaged, when they nothing the a good deal of the damage was preexisting. They after to fix it all even thought they was already damaged before they dropped anchor but the DOE just wants them to say it was all their fault.

    They should just cooperate with them and let them do whatever repairs are need right away. With all the issues with the economy in Cayman, where’s the benefit in delaying this at the cost of Cayman’s Taxpayers not to mention the viability of the surviving coral just to prove a point.

    Also, Vulcan isn’t going to easy to intimidate and push around, he can easily just back off and let them deal with it on their own and then try proving liability in court. Which will be very hard unless they can show that the captain lowered Anchor without the go ahead from the Port Authority, and as big and the ship is I’d think they would have known where it was dropping anchor.