One of the Caribbean’s most pristine environments has been badly damaged by a rampaging superyacht. The superyacht Captain, when spoken to, told nearby divers, “I have a cruising licence and I can do what I want!” It was the volunteers – and then a passing group of scientists – who were the first to respond to the reports that the superyacht had badly damaged the coral reef in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Provo Turtle Divers, who first reported the damage, said the crew from the yacht was warned of possible damage to the reef, but they choose to ignore the warnings.
He said: “They were contacted and the response was, I have a cruising licence and I can do what I want to do.”
“He even stayed another day and damaged the reef even more; he knew what he was doing.”
“I can tell you that the anchor chain decimated a large part of the reef. Imagine a road grader just cleaning off an entire stretch of marine park…it is like a moonscape, it is flat, where it was beautiful before….it’s all gone, thousands of years of growth gone by one vessel.”
Volkert stated that it was heart breaking to see the level of destruction caused by one motor yacht.
His colleague, Art Pickering, who was the one that reported the damage to DEMA, also spoke of the incident.
He said: “What we saw was 220feet motor yacht sitting off the drop off and anchored….the wind was blowing very hard that day and the vessel was sailing back and forth with the wind and that caused the chain to damage the reef.”
“It will take years to re-grow. What we can do is preserve what is left and rebuild…it will take years to get this back.”
According to him, dive operators are, for the large part, the ones on the water regularly and there is need for more patrolling of the marine park.
“We pay a yearly premium to use these parks and protect them…we are the ones who are normally calling in the incidents,” Pickering said.
The matter was first heard in Providenciales Magistrate’s Court and a case has been brought against the yacht captain.
The Governor had this to say: “I sincerely thank the captains of the passing dive boats who reported this incident to the Department of Environment and Maritime Affairs DEMA.”
“Each and every one of us must play our part, as they did, in ensuring that we keep these islands beautiful by nature for future generations.”
“Dealing with this incident has been a real collective effort by a team of volunteers from the community, assisted by resident marine biologist Marsha Pardee, who secured the damaged soft and hard corals to prevent further damage and losses.”
“Assistance too has been provided by the reef’s neighbor, the Amanyara Resort, and the TCI Cabinet, who approved emergency funding to allow this work to be carried out promptly.”
The case against the yacht’s French captain, Benjamin Cameron, 39, is ongoing.
On the trial’s first day, nine witnesses with compelling testimonies took the stand, and reiterated three main points.
They said the Captain disregarded warnings that his vessel was wrongly anchored; his claim of engine problems may not be completely true; and most importantly, the vessel did not have an anchorage permit as previously claimed by Cameron.
Courtesy of Sail-World Cruising Round-up