The cruise to Raja Ampat might not run as fun and smooth as expected by the Caledonian Sky which is owned by the Noble Caledonia, a British-based tour operator. A preliminary investigation has found that the 4,267-tonne cruise ship has destroyed about 1,600 square metres of pristine coral in the heart of Raja Ampat when the ship went aground. Raja Ampat itself is an archipelago located in West Papua with more than 1,500 small islands, cays, and shoals known as a centre of marine biodiversity. Raja Ampat coral reefs, like other coral reefs in the world, were developed by nature over hundreds of years, yet the destruction occurred in less than one day and it is impossible to be restored.
The irreparable damage has attracted attention from Indonesian govenment and the locals. According to the Co-ordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs, the damage happened when the ship, carrying hundreds of tourists, entered the waters on March 4 after visiting the surrounding islands for bird watching and art performances. When it started to sail to Bitung off Sumatra island, it ran aground on coral reefs, yet the ship sailed to Bitung without waiting for an assessment of the damage. Under Indonesian law, the act of damaging natural resources such as coral reefs, peatland, and forests are criminal acts punishable by three years in jail.
A team from the Environment and Forestry Ministry of Indonesia has been set to examine the damage.“Our team will dive to check the level of the damage,” said Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya as quoted by kompas.com on Monday, March 13. Siti said the Coordinating Maritime Affairs Ministry would coordinate the handling of the incident, in which the Environment and Forestry Ministry would specifically handle the damaged coral reefs and prepare measures to bring the environmental destruction case to justice.
Noble Caledonia has apologized for the incident and claimed that it has been working with local experts to assist the regeneration of the reef. The company also said that it will establish a fund to help the local economy and help pay for repairs. However, residents are still outraged since the livelihoods of local communities is heavily dependant upon healthy reefs. Besides, the captain of a cruise ship could be charged for the damage, depends on the decision taken by the officials.