Environment Minister Wayne Panton told Cayman 27 the owners of a container ship that ran aground last Friday morning have accepted liability for the incident.
He said it’s clear the captain of the 328-foot vessel ‘Saga’ made some very serious maneuvering errors while attempting to leave the port, steering the ship bow-first into the reef at Eden Rock.
Friday morning at 5:23 AM, Port Authority cameras captured the 328-foot container ship ‘Saga’ edging slowly away from the south cargo dock. Minutes later, according to the DOE, the vessel found itself in shallow waters near Eden Rock. The captain tried to reverse out, but the ship had become stuck on the reef.
“The ship had considerable amounts of scraping and bottom paint removed, its was clearly evident that it had been in the reef for about the first three-quarters from the bow into the midship,” said DOE deputy director Tim Austin.
He told Cayman 27 20 knot winds forced the ship to pivot while perched on top of the shallow reef.
“The winds were quite strong, the ship could have continued to pound itself up and down and perhaps eventually damaged the ship to a point where it became stuck there on a much longer basis,” said Mr. Austin.
Mr. Austin said two tug boats, Sand Cay and Point of Sand responded quickly, and were able to extricate the Saga from the reef in about an hour. However, that was enough time to inflict serious damage to Eden Rock’s spur and groove reef system as well as its network of swim-through tunnels.
“There are large coral heads that have fallen through, there are some swim through a that are blocked,” said Mr. Austin. “There are some obvious areas where there are coral heads hanging precariously above people, and those are obviously not safe.”
He said while missing markers buoys, weather conditions, and other factors may have contributed to the accident, the responsibility for a ship begins and ends with its captain.
“The idea that he could turn in the area that he tried to turn in was probably the first mistake that he made. The ship was too big to turn in the short space that he left for it,” said Mr. Austin.
The DOE said the ship’s captain had made the approach into Cayman’s port five or six times before the incident. The captain does have the option to ask for a pilot’s assistance, however in this case, that didn’t happen.