EN­VOY HAULED UP OVER CO­RAL REEF DAM­AGE

Jakarta sum­mons Bri­tish am­bas­sador after cruise ship smashes into reefs

New Straits Times - - World -

JAKARTA

IN­DONE­SIA sum­moned the Bri­tish am­bas­sador yes­ter­day after a cruise ship on a voy­age or­gan­ised by a London-based com­pany smashed into co­ral reefs in a pop­u­lar tourist spot and caused ex­ten­sive dam­age.

Raja Am­pat in eastern In­done­sia is one of the most bio­di­verse marine habi­tats on Earth, and at­tracts in­trepid trav­ellers and divers to its palm-fringed is­lands sur­rounded by co­ral and fish.

The ac­ci­dent hap­pened this month when the 4,200-tonne Cale­do­nian Sky smashed into the reefs at low tide around Kri, one of hun­dreds of small is­lands in Raja Am­pat, after tak­ing tourists on a bird-watch­ing ex­pe­di­tion.

The boat, which was car­ry­ing 102 pas­sen­gers and 79 crew, was grounded on the reefs and only re­floated later on a high tide.

Nu­mer­ous at­tempts to free it us­ing a tug boat failed, caus­ing fur­ther dam­age to the corals.

The in­ci­dent in West Pa­pua prov­ince in­fu­ri­ated the govern­ment, who say the Bri­tish cap­tain could face crim­i­nal charges, while lo­cal res­i­dents be­lieve it will im­pact the tourism in­dus­try and the liveli­hoods of fish­er­men.

Yes­ter­day, Co­or­di­nat­ing Min­is­ter for Mar­itime Af­fairs Luhut Pan­jai­tan, a se­nior fig­ure in the cabi­net who is close to Pres­i­dent Joko Wi­dodo, sum­moned the Bri­tish am­bas­sador to In­done­sia, Moaz­zam Ma­lik.

After the meet­ing at Luhut’s of­fice here, Ma­lik said he had a “very good dis­cus­sion” with the min­is­ter.

“I’m dis­ap­pointed to learn about the dam­age to this co­ral reef in West Pa­pua, as we are with any en­vi­ron­men­tal in­ci­dent that oc­curs in In­done­sia or any­where else in the world,” he said.

“We hope the mat­ter can be re­solved quickly be­tween the In­done­sian au­thor­i­ties and the com­pany re­spon­si­ble for this ac­ci­dent.”

Luhut said au­thor­i­ties were tak­ing the reef de­struc­tion “very se­ri­ously”.

“He (the cap­tain) at­tempted to break free from the reefs and made the dam­age even worse, even though he was or­dered to stop,” he said, adding it could take up to 100 years to re­store the corals.

Au­thor­i­ties have ex­pressed anger that the Ba­hamas-flagged ves­sel left In­done­sia and sailed on to the Philip­pines with­out wait­ing for a full dam­age as­sess­ment to be com­pleted.

Ri­cardo Tapi­latu, a marine re­searcher from the Univer­sity of Pa­pua who headed a team as­sess­ing the im­pact, said the March 4 ac­ci­dent dam­aged 13,500 sq m of co­ral reef, which could cost up to US$16.2 mil­lion (RM71 mil­lion) to re­store. AFP

EPA PIX

The dam­aged co­ral reefs in Raja Am­pat de­stroyed by the (in­set) ‘Cale­do­nian Sky’ cruise ship.

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