Indonesia summons United Kingdom envoy over coral reef destruction

Posted March 20, 2017

A preliminary investigation estimated that the cruise ship damaged almost 1,600 square meters of coral reef at a diving site known as Crossover Reef, as the ship ran aground in shallow waters during low tide on March 4.

Indonesia has summoned the British ambassador after a ship operated by a British company ran aground on a coral reef, causing extensive damage. A preliminary investigation found that the ship destroyed about 1,600 square meters (17,200 square feet) of coral in the heart of Radja Ampat, an archipelago with more than 1,500 small islands, cays, and shoals known as a center of marine biodiversity.

Indonesia's senior minister for maritime affairs, Luhut Pandjaitan, summoned Ambassador Moazzam Malik to discuss the damage.

The boat, which was carrying 102 passengers and 79 crew, became grounded on the reefs and had to be refloated by a tug boat before continuing on its journey.

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.

"Anchor damage from ships like these is bad enough, but actually grounding a ship on a reef takes it to a whole new level".

"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", Malik told reporters following a meeting at Pandjaitan's office.

Meanwhile, Raja Ampat Customary Council head Kristian Thebu said separately that the council fully entrusted the governmental process to claim compensation for the damaged coral reefs.

He added: "We hope the matter can be resolved quickly between the Indonesian authorities and the company that is responsible for this accident and was managing the ship".

The ship's operator, Britain-based tour company Noble Caledonia, said in a statement to the Jakarta Post newspaper that it is "firmly committed to the protection of the environment and as such deeply regrets any damage caused to the reef". This is a major problem which we take very seriously.

Panjaitan said authorities were still determining the extent of the damage.