When a cargo ship crashed into the Eden Rock reef on Friday, causing substantial damage, Cayman’s Department of Environment says it faced “considerable scrutiny and criticism” for the lack of channel markers around the reef.
But the DOE is pushing back, releasing a statement Wednesday saying the Port Authority is in charge of replacing navigational markers in the harbor.
The statement notes, “The installation and maintenance of navigational markers, swim area markers and reef entrance channel markers is currently the responsibility of the Cayman Islands Port Authority.”
The Port Authority did not respond to phone and email requests for a response to the DOE statement.
On Monday morning, boats from the DOE and the Port Authority were in the water off Eden Rock, a popular reef along the waterfront, installing new channel markers warning boats to stay away from the reef.
The DOE says it performed an internal investigation and confirmed media reports that Chris Bodden, manager at Paradise Bar and Grill, called the department to complain about the missing markers before the accident.
The department states, “The caller was immediately and correctly referred to the Port Authority so that the necessary action could be taken. Recently the Port Authority confirmed the respective navigation markers were reinstalled, noting they are subject to frequent damage.”
The DOE said the missing buoys were navigational, not markers for the Marine Parks boundary.
In an interview earlier this week, DOE Deputy Director Tim Austin said his department “would be concerned” if the channel markers were missing.
The 328-foot cargo ship Saga slammed into the reef before dawn Friday morning, shearing off chunks of coral and destroying a large section of the popular dive and snorkel site.
The ship, which did not have a local pilot, attempted to make a turn too early after pulling away from the cargo terminal on the George Town waterfront.
After inspecting the damage firsthand, Mr. Austin said, “The structure of the reef is seriously impaired.”
Andy Barnes, with the Eden Rock Dive Center, said, “A lot of the site is wiped out now.”
During an interview at the Dive Center, Mr. Barnes watched as DOE and Port Authority crews replaced the channel markers. “The damage is done and now they are doing their jobs,” he said.
He likened the work to “closing the door after the horse has bolted.”