Billionaire Paul Allen has now settled with the Cayman Islands Government after a protected coral reef was damaged when it was hit by his mega-yacht.

3 November

A financial settlement has been reached between Paul Allen and the government of the Cayman Islands after the US billionaire’s mega-yacht damaged a protected coral reef.

The 300-foot MV Tatoosh reportedly dropped anchor on the coral reef off Seven Mile Beach in January 2016.

Grand Cayman’s Department of the Environment alleged that the yacht’s chain caused the damage as it was dragged through the coral.

A joint statement from the Cayman Islands Government and Allen’s Vulcan Inc. doesn’t reveal the settlement amount.

It does quote the Cayman Islands Environment Minister, Wayne Panton, who said the agreement with TDE Maritime, Allen’s company which owns MV Tatoosh, will also cover the cost of a new permanent mooring in the area.

“Losing any of our coral affects not only the stability of our environment, but also our economy,” said Panton in the statement.

“The agreement with TDE Maritime therefore reflects a value commensurate with the loss of our public resource and facilitates a permanent mooring solution in Seven Mile Beach Park,” he continued.

“Our goal was to work with TDE Maritime in order to reach the best agreement for Cayman, and we achieved this goal because of our shared commitment to the environment,” added the Environment Minister.

In the statement, Paul Allen stressed his company’s conservation credentials.

“Our experience around the world in ocean conservation has proven that real change requires dedicated, long-term investment to have a meaningful effect,” said the billionaire.

“We share the Cayman Islands Government’s goal of responsible management of the natural environment, and this agreement will help preserve the reefs and ecosystem for future generations,” added Allen.

Neither Allen or his company have admitted to damaging the coral, although the billionaire did fund restoration work on the 14,000 sq-ft of coral.

 

 

5 April 

The emergency restoration work on the protected reef was jointly administered by the Microsoft co-founder and billionaire Paul Allen’s company, Vulcan Inc. and The Cayman Islands Department of Environment (DoE). The work was carried out by Polaris Applied Sciences.

The Polaris team reattached 1,600 organisms, including hundreds of hard and soft corals and sponges.

The work to triage the area, which local officials say was damaged by the mega-yacht’s anchor and chain on 14 January, included stabilising and removing rubble, re-creating structures, and rescuing and reattaching as much living coral as possible.

More than 30 tonnes of cement and sand, along with eight tonnes of rubble, were used in the operation, says Vulcan Inc. in a statement.

The project, which  took 300 hours over 24 days, was overseen by Dr. Harold Hudson, formerly of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and a world leader in restoration of coral habitats.

“The reef remediation by Polaris Applied Sciences was an experienced-based approach to help minimise the damage and improve the likelihood of coral recovery in the area,” said Dr. Hudson. “The swift implementation of this plan provides the greatest chance for recovery of the affected area and I commend both Vulcan and the DoE for their efforts to help ensure its rapid completion.”

A coral restoration expert, William Precht, has been hired by The Cayman Islands Department of Environment to continue to oversee the project and monitor the area.

26 February 

Microsoft co-founder and billionaire Paul Allen’s company, Vulcan, Inc., has come up with a plan to restore a huge swathe of coral reef his 300ft yacht damaged last month.

A joint statement Thursday from the company and Grand Cayman’s Department of Environment announced work to restore the reef would begin Tuesday. The cost of the plan has not been disclosed.

On 14 January, Allen’s yacht MV Tatoosh reportedly dropped anchor on a coral reef. Grand Cayman’s Department of the Environment alleged that the yacht’s chain caused the damage as it was dragged through the coral.

Plans for repairing the damage were delayed when Allen’s company registered its disagreement, however, saying the local Port Authority “explicitly directed” the yacht to the site where it was anchored and a history of damage to the reef made it difficult to determine the damage caused by Tatoosh.

Divers who investigated the damage reportedly estimated the yacht had impacted up to 80 percent of the coral in the area.

The statement outlined the steps planned in the restoration project, and said: “The DoE and Paul G. Allen are deeply committed to ocean health and conservation. Both the DoE and Vulcan have worked hard to ensure that this agreement reflects the best international standards for restoration of coral habitats. They look forward to working together on the restoration. No further public statements are planned until the remediation work is completed.”

 

27 January 2016

The Department of Environment has accused the Microsoft co-founder of having caused serious damage to the protected coral reef in the West Bay replenishing zone.

Following an inspection by local divers to assess the damage, officials have found that Allen’s 300 ft yacht MV Tatoosh wrecked a high percentage of the coral, which is essential for marine’s life.

It is thought that the accident was caused by a yacht’s chain when it was anchored by the Doc Poulson shipwreck and The Knife dive site.

The Cayman Islands Department of Environment are currently surveying the area thoroughly and are planning to release the findings next week.

One of the environmental body’s spokesperson said in an interview with the Cayman News Service: “In addition to assessing the damage and determining the cause of this incident, we are also paying close attention to lessons learned so that we can more effectively prevent these accidents while still hosting visiting yachts”.

Paul Allen’s camp is blaming the Port Authority for the damage, claiming that they followed instructions when mooring the superyacht.

It’s unclear whether the 63-year-old billionaire was aboard of the vessel, or when the incident happened, but if Allen is found guilty he could incur a heavy fine.