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Billionaire pays undisclosed amount for mega-yacht reef damage

Billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen pays up after his yacht damaged a Cayman coral reef earlier this year.

Environment Minister Wayne Panton, speaking exclusively to Cayman 27, said a monetary settlement has been reached with Mr. Allen, whose 300-foot mega-yacht Tatoosh destroyed close to 14,000 square feet of coral reef in the West Bay replenishment zone with its anchor chain.

Mr. Panton told Cayman 27 the settlement will help reduce the chance of similar incidents happening in the future.

“The settlement that has been reached is one which I think as I said, is a good result for the Cayman Islands,” said Mr. Panton.

Ten months after nearly 14,000 square feet of coral reef was destroyed by Paul Allen’s mega-yacht Tatoosh, the Microsoft billionaire, through his company TDE Maritime, has paid up.

“I’m very happy with the amount that’s been settled,” said Minister Panton. “Unfortunately we are not in a position to disclose it because we’ve agreed a non-disclosure, but I can say that it reflects a commensurate value with the damage that was done.”

On January 14, 2016, the 303 foot Tatoosh, the 43rd largest mega-yacht in the world, was anchored in the West Bay replenishment zone. A local divemaster noticed the damaged reef under the vessel and alerted the DOE, who after investigating, concluded the Tatoosh was responsible for the extensive damage. Initial reports calculated around 80% of coral in the area was destroyed.

For more than a month, Mr. Allen’s company, Vulcan Inc., denied responsibility for the damage, bickering with DOE officials over the source and scope of the damage. Eventually, Mr. Allen’s company paid an outside firm to undertake a 24-day reef restoration, which was complete in April.

Mr. Panton said the Cayman Islands has already received the undisclosed amount of cash, and has plans to put it to good use.

“That settlement is being used to fund permanent moorings placed within the park area, and we are hoping to get those completed, or start those very shortly,” said Mr. Panton.

He said an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. He said the hope is these permanent mega-yacht moorings will prevent similar mishaps in our waters.

“Having these additional facilities now where they can moor in safety and don’t have to be concerned their selves with whether there’s any potential for a shift in the weather or shift in the wind to cause a problem,” said Mr. Panton. “I think is going to make people much more confident about coming and visiting.”
In a joint press release with the ministry, Mr. Allen stressed his conservation credentials.

“Real change requires dedicated, long-term investment to have a meaningful effect,” said Mr. Allen in the statement. “This agreement will help preserve the reef and ecosystem for future generations.”

About the author

Joseph Avary

Joseph Avary

Joe Avary joined the Cayman 27 team in January 2014, bringing nearly two decades of experience in TV news to the islands. He spends his time away from the office scuba diving, practicing yoga, and trying to make his friends laugh at his comedic stylings. He proudly calls the district of West Bay home, and loves nothing more than relaxing visits to the Sister Islands.

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