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DOE questions Saga captain again about grounding incident

The 328-foot container ship Saga remained in George Town harbour Tuesday afternoon, five days after it ran aground at Eden Rock.

Cayman 27 was the first to report the widespread damage to the much-loved dive and snorkel site, causing at least two sections of the cavern system to collapse.

The Department of Environment continued its investigation, interviewing the ship’s captain again about the incident.

Meanwhile, some are calling for policy changes they say will prevent future accidents.

Five days after it ran aground at Eden Rock, the Saga container vessel could still be seen off shore just north of George Town…

DOE officials told Cayman 27 the vessel and its crew are not officially being detained. Several meetings were scheduled for Tuesday, including another interview with the captain. The hope is that the parties involved can come to a resolution before the ship carries on to its next destination.

The DOE said the Saga grounding is the first incident involving a cargo ship making a navigational error in this location since the cargo dock was constructed.

Paradise Snorkel and Scuba manager Chris Bodden told Cayman 27 in the hours after the incident occurred he believes requiring the use of local ship pilots during docking maneuvers could make it the last.

“Unlike just about every other port in the world where, if you come in on a large size vessel, you’re required to have a local pilot who knows the area, who knows the reef, you know, the dock, the winds and all that kind of stuff, to bring your ship in for you,” said Mr. Bodden.

Monday morning, Port Authority harbour patrol was on the water, re-installing two marker buoys in the area. DOE divers were also in the water, conducting a full assessment of the damage caused by the grounding.

The DOE has assured the public arrangements are being made to ensure the responsible party makes restitution, and hopes Tuesday talks deliver results.

There have been several incidences of reef damage caused by ships in recent years.  Earlier this year, the mega-yacht owned by Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen damaged coral reef off the coast of West Bay, near the Doc Poulson wreck. This month, the Ministry of Environment announced a financial settlement had been reached with the billionaire’s company, however the terms of the agreement were not released.

In December 2015, the MV Zenith’s anchor damaged sections of a George Town reef. Dive Instructor Scott Prodahl’s video of the anchor on the reef went viral. However, that damage occurred inside the designated anchorage area, and no prosecution occurred.

In April 2015, a 300-pound anchor used as a temporary mooring for the Cayman Magic Reef Recovery was caught and dragged by a passing vessel. That anchor came to rest at Eden Rock, damaging a portion of reef.

In March 2015, a 625 square foot section of damaged reef was discovered at the 13 Trees dive site. The DOE determined the damage occurred in a two-week window, but were unable to determine which of three mega-yachts anchored in the area during that window was ultimately responsible for the damage. No prosecution took place.

In 2014, the Carnival Magic’s anchor and chain destroyed 16,000 square feet of coral reef near Don Foster’s Dive Cayman. A DOE report determined three parties were responsible, the Port Authority, Bodden Shipping Agency, and Carnival Cruise Lines, but none of the parties deemed at fault were prosecuted. A volunteer effort to restore the reef was initiated, raising $28,000 CI from the Cayman community. Eventually, Carnival Cruise Lines coughed up $100,000 US for the restoration effort, which was finally completed in 2016.

Back in 2010, a ship’s anchor struck Eden Rock, and in 2007, an anchor off the coast of Spotts beach damaged reef in that area.

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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