Indonesia has vowed to take action after a British-owned cruise ship damaged pristine coral reefs by blundering in at low tide.
Authorities in the country say they may seek the extradition of the ship’s captain on a charge of criminal damage, while the vice president is demanding compensation from the operator of the Caledonian Sky.
The Raja Ampat islands, in the east of Indonesia, boast some of the world’s most biodiverse marine habitats, often described as an “underwater paradise”.
The accident happened when the 4,200-ton cruise ship crashed into the reefs at low tide near the island of Kri after taking tourists on a bird-watching expedition.
The ship, carrying 102 passengers and 79 crew, then became grounded on the reefs until the tide rose. Attempts to free it using a tug boat were unsuccessful and only added to the damage done.
Indonesian vice president Jusuf Kalla said: “The boat has insurance — they have to pay.”
Foreign ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said the captain of the ship could be jailed for up to 10 years under environmental protection laws. “The government is very concerned and very worried about this incident and certainly all steps will be taken to ensure accountability,” he added.
After the mishap, the vessel continued on to the Philippines. Officials contend it should have remained in the country’s waters until the damage was assessed.
Local tourist guide Martin Makusi said he was “devastated” by the damage done to the marine environment. “This incident makes me sad, disappointed and angry because the coral reefs in Raja Ampat are like paradise for us.”
Ricardo Tapilatu, a marine researcher from the University of Papua led a team that has examined the damage. He said 145,000 square feet of coral reef was affected, which could cost up to $16.2 million to restore.
Noble Caledonia, the British-based operator of the ship, said they were “very upset” by the damage and were working to reach a settlement with the government.