The owners of a cargo ship that struck a coral reef in George Town harbor, causing significant damage to a popular snorkeling and diving site, are suing the Port Authority, alleging it was partly responsible for the accident.

The 328-foot cargo ship MV Saga had to be pulled free by tugboats when it ran into the reef, close to the Eden Rock dive site in November last year. The impact sheared off the tops of shallow coral heads, leaving rubble in its wake.

The Department of Environment indicated in December that the ship’s owners had accepted liability and hired environmental company, Polaris Applied Sciences, to attempt a reef restoration. The ownership company, Risley Ltd., has filed a writ in Grand Court seeking damages for liabilities incurred in restoring the reef.

It claims the Port Authority failed in its duty to properly manage the harbor and suggests it should bear some of the costs stemming from the incident.

The writ claims that there were inadequate or missing marker buoys around the reef formations in the harbor and in or around the channel leading from open waters to the dock at Hog Sty Bay.

It suggests the Port Authority’s intervention after the MV Saga had struck the reef made the incident worse.

It states the ship was instructed to cut its engines as it was attempting to reverse away from the reef after the initial impact, causing it to lose steerage and be blown further on to the reef, exacerbating the damage.

The damage was made yet worse, the writ claims, by the tugboats being directed to tow the Saga sideways across a wider area of reef than had been initially impacted.

The cargo ship sheared the top off part of the reef at Eden Rock. – PHOTO: LIZ WYATT

The writ filed by Campbells law firm seeks damages, including for losses suffered “as a result of Saga’s liability to restore damaged coral reef” in connection with the grounding of the ship on Nov. 25, “while under the direction of the servants or agents of the defendant [the Port Authority] including whilst under towage.”

It also seeks an indemnity in respect of, or “equitable contribution” from the Port Authority towards any liability incurred by Saga.

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