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Asia Minute: Cruise Ship Destroys Indonesian Coral

What the coral reef looked like before and after

One of Indonesia's best coral reefs has been severely damaged by a cruise liner smashing into it at low tide.

An official evaluation team found that the ship had been caught in low tide despite being equipped with modern Global Positioning System and radar instruments, according to team member Ricardo Tapilatu, head of the research center for pacific marine resources at the University of Papua.

This case has provoked strong criticism within the local tourism industry, highly dependent on the wonders of nature in Raja Ampat, which means the four kings in Indonesia.

"The types of reefs that were damaged by the ship are Genus Porites, Acropora, Poicilopora, Tubastrea, Montipora, Stylopora, Favia and Pavites".

The vice president demanded that the Caledonian Sky's operator pay compensation as authorities said a criminal act could have been committed and they may seek the extradition of the ship's captain. Actually, it's not only about the extent of the damaged coral reefs.

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

-A British cruise line's ship hit an Indonesian coral reef last week, taking with it 1,600 square meters - about 17,200 square feet - of coral. "Was it a 12-year-old who was in charge?"

Caledonian Sky had set sail from Papau New Guinea on February 25 and was scheduled to arrive in the Philippines on March 14.

In a statement this week, a Maritime Affairs Ministry spokesperson said the destruction to the largely untouched Raja Ampat - known to have the greatest diversity in marine species in the world, according WWF - was "impossible to repair".

This cruise ship managed to get trapped at low tide in an area where it was not even supposed to be in the first place, and despite being equipped with radar and making use of a global positioning satellite.

'The inspection revealed that the hull was undamaged and remained intact.

The ship itself "did not take on water, nor was any pollution reported as a result of the grounding", said the company. If the company disagrees with the settlement, the Indonesian government will take matters to court.

Initial figures recommended by the evaluation team suggest that compensation in the region of $800 - $1,200 per sq m should be paid by the cruise company, as the reef is part of a national park and also one of the world's most spectacular dive sites. The director of Raja Ampat's tourism agency, Yusdi Lamatenggo, confirmed the accident in the archipelago located at the edge of the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean.