Jail Time for Captain of Reef-Destroying Caledonian Sky?

There's still considerable talk about the ecological damage caused by the Caledonian Sky cruise ship which smashed a wide area of coral reef in Raja Ampat, Indonesia two weeks ago.

The local Minister for Maritime Affairs was quoted as saying that the damage to the ancient coral reefs was "devastating and irreparable," according to an article in Rappler titled Indonesia says captain of cruise ship that destroyed coral reefs may face imprisonment.

The Bahamian-flagged cruise ship ran aground at low tide, although it was equipped with radar and GPS monitoring instruments.

The ship was reportedly carrying 102 passengers and 79 crew members on a 16-day trip from Papua New Guinea to the Philippines.

The ship's operator, Noble Caledonia, was operating the vessel under a long term charter from Salen Ship Management. Noble Caledonian offered a token apology but concentrated on defending itself and its master who grounded the vessel on the reef, saying: "We are one of the leading expedition cruise companies which specializes in expedition tours to remote locations such as this, in addition to which we take protection of the environment very seriously indeed. The Master on duty at the time is one of the world’s leading expedition Captains."

The master, Keith Michael Taylor, on paper at least, seems to be an experienced mariner, according to Captain Taylor Caledonia Sky his resume on Linked-In. Before working for Salen Ship Management for the past two years as the captain of the Calendonian Sky, he served as a captain with Orion Expedition Cruises from 2008 to 2014 and, before that, for Windstar Cruises for one year.  He also served as a captain for Clipper Cruise Line for eight years and for Spice Island Fleet, Great White Fleet and Windjammer Barefoot Cruises dating back to the early 1990's.

Newspaper accounts, however, are highly critical of the captain. Some suggest that he did not wait for a report of the damage to his vessel or the reef. Tugs pulled the cruise ship across the reef, further damaging the coral. One newspaper says that Captain Taylor attempted to break free from the reef and made the damage even worse even though he was ordered to stop. He then sailed the ship out of the jurisdiction. One newspaper said that the captain "seems to be content by leaving the matter to the insurance company." 

Approximately 17,200 square feet of coral were destroyed in the mishap, although a more recent estimate placed the extent of the damage much higher.  Estimates of the damages are in the range of a little over $1 million to over $18 million.  But the destruction cannot be easily fixed and the reefs may take over 100 years to regenerate.  

One newspaper reported that the local ministry said “the destruction of the Radja Ampat coral reefs, which were developed by nature over hundreds of years, occurred in less than one day. It is simply impossible to restore that part of Radja Ampat. Fish that were normally seen in that particular area are all gone.”

Photographs posted (bottom) after the grounding show rubber dinghies deployed bearing the name of the Swedish management company, Salen Ship (salenship.com).

Captain Taylor committed an environmental crime under Indonesian law; he is subject to imprisonment for recklessly destroying the country's natural coral resources. But whether he spends even a day in jail seems unlikely. As explained in my recent article The "Trump Effect" - Cruise Industry Reinforces Its Image as an Enemy of the Environment, there are few travel industries which can wreak havoc on rare, bio-diverse marine habitats as effectively as the cruise lines. And there are no cruise lines willing to see their captains face criminal responsibility when they run aground on or drop or drag an anchor over an ancient coral reef.

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 Photo credit: Top - Linked-In; Middle - Indonesian Ministry of Maritime Affairs; Bottom - Indonesia Expats 

Caledonia Sky Reef Damage

 Salen Ship Management - Caledonia Sky

Ponant Diverts L'Austral to Manilla for Safety Inspection

Ponant L'AustralCruise Critic reports that Ponant has diverted its cruise ship, L'Austral, because of safety concerns due to two separate accidents earlier this year when the French luxury cruise ship struck objects while sailing. 

In January, the cruise ship struck a floating object in the Sub Antarctic Islands. In February, L’Austral struck an undersea rock while sailing in New Zealand, causing damage to its hull.

Ponant chose to avoid the ship sailing into the Sulu Sea. L'Austral was forced to skip its port visit to Borneo.

The vessel's certification society reportedly requested Ponant to undergo an inspection in a port near Manila, from March 16 to 29, 2017, in order to check the ship's hull for damage. 

L'Austral has been in the news several times in the last two years. In August 2016, an excursion vessel carrying two dozen passengers from L’Austral began taking on water and eventually sank in waters near Greenland. The cruise passengers were rescued at the last minute.

In November 2015, L'Austral rescued several hundred passengers from another luxury cruise ship operated by Ponant, Le Boréal, which caught on fire when the ship was sailing north of the Falkland Islands. The fire and evacuation efforts were far more complicated than initially reported.

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Photo credit: Orlovic - CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Pacific Princess Hits Breakwater at Port of Nice

Pacific PrincessThe Pacific Princess hit a breakwater at the port of Nice this morning, according to a French newspaper.

The Princess Cruises' ship arrived at the Port of Nice at 6:15 A.M. this morning (Friday). The newspaper states that a leak was found in compartment no. 2 of the cruise ship. Twenty firefighters and divers reportedly responded to the incident.

The Forum Bateau website explained that the incident occurred in rough seas with an east wind over 45 knots, causing the port side of the cruise ship to strike rocks at the entrance to the Nice harbor before the ship docked.

The cruise ship was scheduled this depart Nice this evening, reportedly heading to Barcelona.  

The newspaper quotes a passenger aboard the ship as saying: "We felt the ship scrape port side . . . The captain told us later that the ship had hit the rocks. . . . for now, we're stuck here and we do not know for how long. We do not know if we will be able to continue our cruise."

The newspaper also quoted a passenger in another vessel at the port further as saying "I heard a big 'boom', a thud that reverberated throughout the harbor like an explosion."

The newspaper article contains photos and video of the Pacific Princess at port in Nice.

Photo credit: By Kate Rozdabara CC BY 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

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October 14, 2016 Statement by Princess Cruises:  

"NICE, FRANCE (October 14, 2016 – 12:35PM) - Princess Cruises can confirm that during arrival at the port of Nice, under normal weather and sea conditions (at approximately 6:30 AM) Pacific Princess experienced an unexpected change in wind conditions and made contact with the breakwater wall resulting in damage to the port side of the ship under the water line. The water tight doors were already closed containing the inflow of sea water. The ship is safely alongside at the pier. There were no injuries and at no time were any guests or crew in danger. Guests are ashore enjoying excursions and site seeing. The ship has electrical power.

Divers are on scene assessing the damage to determine repair options and the amount of time required to complete. As a result of this incident we have made the decision to end the current cruise early so that necessary repairs can be made to the ship. We will be providing required transportation and lodging at our expense so that guests may proceed with their original onward travel arrangements as scheduled on Sunday, October 16. Additional details about these arrangements will be provided as soon as possible.

Pacific Princess is sailing with 669 guests and 382 crew members. The ship is on day ten of a 12 day cruise that departed Venice on October 4, and was scheduled to arrive in Barcelona on October 15, for an overnight stay before ending the cruise on October 16."

October 19, 2016 Update: At least one passenger is complaining that Princess Cruises is not honoring the promise of a "full refund" it made when it cancelled the October 16 cruise following the incident described above.

Rough Weather Hits Explorer of the Seas

Rough WeatherI received emails this weekend that the Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas was hit with rough weather. The cruise ship is sailing on its 14 night re-positioning cruise to Port Canaveral.

Two lifeboats on deck 4 were reportedly dislodged and water crashed through glass doors and flooded the interior of the ship. Allegedly the water temporarily disabled the aft elevators. These are are some of the things I am being told. 

A Cruise Critic member is leaving comments on the Cruise Critic message boards. You can see some dramatic photos of the rough weather here (I'm feeling sea sick just looking at them) and of the lifeboat damage here.  

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Photo Credit: rcgroups.com / patmat2350

Royal Caribbean's New Port in Falmouth, Jamaica - At What Cost to the Environment?

I have written about Royal Caribbean's new port development in the town of Falmouth Jamaica before. It seems to me that the new development for the cruise line perpetuates the historical master (cruise line) - servant (Jamaica) relationship which continues to exploit the Jamaican people.

My tour of Falmouth reinforced those beliefs.  Most of the profits from goods sold behind the walled gates to the port leave with the cruise ship and return to the cruise line's coffers in Miami.  And most of the cruise passengers who left the Allure of the Seas when it was in port quickly headed out of Falmouth on cruise line excursions to Ocho Rio and Montego Bay.

But this article is not about the economic exploitation of Falmouth. It addresses the environmental consequences to the island caused by trying to accommodate Royal Caribbean's two monster Falmouth Jamaica - Royal Caribbean Port - Reef and Mangrove Destruction (Genesis) class cruise ships, the Oasis of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas - the two biggest cruise ships in the world.

The motivation for this article came from reading an article Can the Cruise Industry Clean Up Its Act? in OnEarth magazine ("A Survival Guide for the Planet.")    

I learned a couple of things from this article.  First, the Oasis and the Allure, even though Royal Caribbean touts them as environmentally friendly ships, are burning the dirtiest and most dangerous fuel in the world - bunker fuel - which is essentially a tar-like refinery by-product.  The non-combustible particles blacken the sky and pose a major health hazard to the health of people in a hundred mile radius.

Secondly, the presence of Royal Caribbean's new mega-ships in the little port required the destruction of some 35,000,000 cubic feet of coral reef and the destruction of two square miles of mangroves which are now buried under the now pulverized reef material.   Quite frankly when I visited Falmouth last year, I was taken back by the destruction I could see. But now I appreciate just how widespread and complete Royal Caribbean's plans were to destroy the reef and mangroves.   OnEarth magazine explains:

"In Falmouth, to accommodate Allure and Oasis, wrecking crews had to smash a quarter-mile-wide opening in an offshore barrier reef. They dredged coral, both living and dead, as well as the rock substrate, and trucked it inland to a two-square-mile dump site -- a clear-cut area on the outskirts of town that was once a thriving red mangrove swamp. Now all that’s left is 35 million cubic feet of pulverized coral and rubble. When I visit the site with Roland Haye, a Jamaican environmental activist, he tells me, "As a boy, I used to play Tarzan here and see crocodile. It was a winter home for great heron and swan." He points out broken conch shells, dismembered starfish, bits of sea sponge, and severed lobes of brain coral."

Port of Falmouth - Reef and Mangrove Damage - Royal CaribbeanAnother problem is that the removal of the natural reef exposes the shore to pounding of the waves. When I visited, I observed that the road from Ocho Rios to Falmouth, previously protected by the reef, was literally covered with water from the encroaching waves. The road was already eroding.  

While reading the OnEarth magazine article, I learned about Esther Figueroa, a Jamaican filmmaker who documented the destruction of the reef and mangroves in order to dig a giant water hole for Royal Caribbean to park its monstrosities of the seas. (Why does Joni Mitchell's song Big Yellow Taxi - "they paved paradise" - come to mind?).

Ms. Figuero's short video is below, at the bottom.

But first take a look at the top video. While looking on YouTube for Ms. Figueroa's video, I also ran across a short promotional video for the Royal Caribbean port by "CruiseGuy," a cruise enthusiast and local cruise celebrity, who was interviewed on a local South Florida TV station. He raves about how wonderful Royal Caribbean's new facility in Falmouth will be. The video shows a beautiful color drawing of a tree filled port nestled between the Oasis and the Allure.    

Compare this cruise dream with the reality revealed by Ms. Figueroa's video on the bottom.  

"Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got til it's gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot"