The owner of the cargo ship that ran into Eden Rock reef two weeks ago has accepted liability for damage at the site, according to the Department of Environment.
The 328-foot cargo ship Saga had to be pulled free by tugboats when it ran into the reef, a popular site for shore diving and snorkeling off the George Town waterfront. The impact sheared off the tops of shallow coral heads, leaving rubble in its wake.
DOE Deputy Director Scott Slaybaugh said Friday that the ship’s owners hired Polaris Applied Science to survey the damage, the same company that did the restoration work after Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen’s yacht damaged a different reef last year.
Mr. Slaybaugh said the ship owner and operators “have been very cooperative. They have been instructed to give us every consideration, and they have.”
Clarifying Saga’s complicated operating agreement, Mr. Slaybaugh said Cayman-based Hydes Shipping chartered the St. Vincent-flagged vessel, which is managed by Estonian company Novus Shipping, owned by Risely Ltd., and insured by P&I Club of London. He said an attorney at Campbells is representing the ship owners in negotiations with the Cayman Islands government.
He said the DOE investigation continues into the crash.
Assessing the damage
Crews from both the DOE and Polaris Applied Science have inspected the site. Mr. Slaybaugh said his department should have completed its damage assessment report by Monday. Polaris, the reef restoration company, has a draft proposal for the restoration work under review, he said.
Divers report that at least five different sites in the Eden Rock reef structures have suffered significant damage. The coral heads appear to have been sheared off by the hull of the ship as it slammed into the reef. At some points on the reef, what appears to be paint from the hull is still visible from where it ran aground on the shallow coral structures.
According to the Eden Rock Dive Center, DOE officials asked dive operators to caution divers against going through the swim-throughs, a network of caverns and caves at Eden Rock popular with divers.
Speaking last week, Andy Barnes, with the Eden Rock Dive Center, said, “A lot of the site is wiped out now.” He said some of the swim-through entrances have been blocked by debris and rubble.
“It took thousands of years to make those tunnels,” he said. “There’s no amount of money you can throw at that section to make it better,” he said. But, he added later, he will probably volunteer with the restoration crew to help save some of the corals and rebuild the site.
At Eden Rock Saturday, markers were in place at the damaged sites, though it’s not clear if those were left by Polaris or the DOE.
One section of the damaged reef opened up a hole at about 10 feet deep, with rubble visible on the floor of one of the swim-throughs about 20 feet below.
The damage spans the northern section of the reef. The ship, according to the DOE’s Tim Austin, was backing out of the cargo port when it started to turn too early and ran over the reef before 6 a.m. Nov. 26.
The ship did not have a local pilot guiding the departure from the port.
This story has been edited from the original version.