June 18, 2021

Cayman Islands Government publishes Carnival Magic Anchor Damage Report

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Fig 1After recent local press reports mentioning the Department of Environment’s Carnival Magic Anchor Damage Report, the report is being published to allow the public full access to the information.

Carnival Magic Anchor Damage

Compiled by the Department of Environment for the Ministry of Financial Services, Commerce and Environment.

30th October 2014


On Wednesday August 27th 2014, the Department of Environment (DOE) was notified by a local shore-based dive company that the Carnival Magic cruise ship was anchored a long way south of the usual anchorage and its anchor and chain were in coral and causing significant destruction. The dive shop provided video and photographic evidence to support the claim.

The DOE dispatched Marine Research Officer,
, to confirm the report from shore and triangulate the position of the ship.

Figure 1. The Carnival Magic anchor in coral reef south of George Town Harbour.

Fig 1The DOE contacted Bodden Shipping and the Port Authority to determine how the Carnival Magic had been permitted to anchor so far south and outside of the George Town Harbour Designated Anchorages. The Port Authority was unaware of the circumstances surrounding how the ship had been anchored in her current position but committed to have the ship relocated. Bodden Shipping agent, , confirmed the ship had requested an alternative anchorage to the one assigned by the Port Authority due to prevailing weather conditions and that the Port Pilot, provided by Bodden Shipping, had attempted to anchor the ship in a ‘sand patch’ south of Anchorage Number 4 to accommodate this request.

However, the anchor was not set in sand, but instead was placed on a popular dive site located off Sea View Reef and 450 ft. of chain (5 shots – pers. communication Bodden Shipping) was laid on living coral reef. Significant damage resulted.

Figure 2. The Port Anchorage Area and the location of the Carnival Magic impact site outside of the designated anchorage.

Fig 2DOE Research Officer, , and , conducted several reconnaissance dives to document, map and quantify the extent of damage to the reef. Provisional estimates and video analysis of data collected placed the impact footprint at approximately 1,100 square meters (11,840 square feet). Within that footprint, approximately 500 square meters were severely impacted with near complete destruction. The remaining 600 square meters (6,458 square feet) had varying degrees of impact from severe to moderate.

Subsequent and more detailed analysis of the zone of impact revised the original estimates of damage to a final stated figure of 1,538 square meters.

Figure 3. Carnival Magic anchor damage on upper section of reef.

Fig 3Figure 4. DOE map of significant damage to enable accurate quantification of the impacted area.Fig 4

Figure 5. DOE map of significant zones of impact to guide restoration activities.

Fig 5Under the Marine Conservation Law (2013 revision), the Marine Conservation Regulations (2004 revision) Section 9(1) states, ‘Whoever anchors any vessel exceeding 20 feet in length, or a commercial vessel, or allows any of such vessels to be anchored in such a manner that damage is caused to the coral by anchor, chain or any similar contrivance, is guilty of an offence.’

Penalties for violation of the MCL and Regulations include a fine of up to CI$500,000, one year in jail, and confiscation of the vessel and equipment used in commission of the offence.


The Port Authority Regulations (2011 Revision) Schedule 7 defines the ‘Port Anchorage Area’ that would exclude commercial shipping from the anchor damage to coral restrictions imposed by the Marine Conservation Law. The Carnival Magic was anchored outside the designated ‘Port Anchorage Area’.


On February 7th 2001, the luxury yacht ‘Lady A’ dropped anchor in the Seven Mile Beach Marine Park and destroyed 130 square meters of live coral reef. The DOE documented damages and proceeded with a prosecution under the Marine Conservation Law. The Court of the Cayman Islands found the Captain guilty and imposed a fine of CI$ 150,000, setting the court case precedent for damage to living coral reefs in the Cayman Islands at CI$ 1,153.85 per square meter of living reef.

The significant economic value attributed to coral reef ecosystems and the countless ecosystem services they provide around the world have been the subject of numerous high profile research initiatives:

The UNEP Report ‘Dredging and port construction around coral reefs’ (PIANC 208) states:

‘One estimate puts the economic value of the world’s coral reefs at $ 345 billion per year. In contrast, the cost of damages and for restoration of coral reefs has been estimated to be in the order of US$ 1,000 per m2.’
A PIANC-derived decision might determine the financial impact of Carnival Magic
anchor damage at CI$1,291,920

In the past, fines levied in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary established a range of values for damage to coral reef environments.


Table 1 Florida K 1Taking the above range of values into consideration, and disregarding inflation and other circumstances, funds recovered for impact of the scale of the Carnival Magic anchor damage might range between a high of CI$ 14,081,883 and a low of CI$1,128,693.

Table 1 Florida K 2More recently (July 1st 2009), the Florida Coral Reef Protection Act came into force standardizing fines for damage to Florida’s coral reefs. A variety of scenarios are contemplated, taking into account the size of the impact area and location within a marine protected area. For damage to coral reefs that exceed 10 m2:

 US$1,000 per m2;

 With aggravating circumstances – an additional US$1,000 per m2;

 Within a state park or aquatic preserve – an additional US$1,000 per m2.

The Florida Coral Reef Protection Act allows for a potential per square meter fine of up to US$3,000. However, the total of penalties levied may not exceed US$250,000 per occurrence.


Adapted from Jeffrey Wielgus. August 2004. ‘General Protocol for Calculating the Basis of Monetary Legal Claims for Damages to Coral Reefs by Vessel Groundings and an application to the northern Red Sea’. Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority.

Damage to coral reefs by vessel groundings and anchors can range from relatively minor injuries, consisting of the damage or death of a small number of coral colonies, to catastrophic events in which the structural complexity of the reef framework is degraded (Precht et al. 2001). While reefs have the ability to recover from minor and moderate injuries naturally, human intervention is required to rehabilitate them after a catastrophic event (Hudson and Goodwin 2001; Riegl 2001), after which reductions in the abundance and species’ richness of fish, corals, and other invertebrates are evident (Hatcher 1984; Hudson and Díaz 1988; Ebersole 2001; Miller and Barimo 2001; Riegl 2001). Effects of catastrophic groundings may be visible for centuries as scars on the coral substrate (Ebersole 2001; Riegl 2001) and alterations in the richness and abundance of fish species (Ebersole 2001).

Natural recovery time for coral and fish communities impacted by ship groundings has been estimated at 100 -150 years in shallow reef slopes. Restoration activities can reduce this recovery time.

A typical restoration process includes the following (Precht 1998):

– Initial damage assessment and remedial actions;

Initial remedial actions aim at rescuing the damaged resources, and include the salvaging of broken coral colonies or fragments, and removal or stabilization of loose debris and sediments to prevent further damages (Jaap

– Detailed damage assessment and preparation of a restoration plan;

– Implementation of the restoration plan;

– Monitoring of coral reef recovery;

– Adaptive management of the restoration plan.

A variety of coral reef restoration methods have been employed, varying greatly in complexity and costs (see Jaap 2000; Miller and Barimo 2001). Common restoration activities include (Jaap 2000):

-Structural reconstruction of the damaged coral reef substrate. If possible, large coral formations are reattached to their original location with the use of winches. If this is not possible, coral formations are replaced with artificial structures having a similar structure. For the restoration of coral (Miller and Barimo 2001) and fish (Ebersole 2001) assemblages to be effective, it is important that the original three- dimensional structure of the reef is replicated. Cement, limestone boulders, and a combination of the two have been used for this purpose. Steel reinforcements have been applied for strengthening fractured reef structures.

-Transplantation of corals and other organisms.


The DOE, in collaboration with the local dive community, has initiated an intensive remedial damage effort focusing on the following key tasks in order of priority:

1. Reorient and secure as best as possible any large dislocated coral heads with substantial living tissue in an appropriate location that gives them some chance of survival. Due to the large depth ranges involved, coral colonies and fragments should not be relocated to different depths and efforts should be maintained to place them at a similar depth to their original location;

2. Uncover any corals that are alive and still attached to reef structures but buried or threatened by rubble;

3. Reposition securely, on a stable reef structure, any coral fragments of fractured colonies to increase their chances of survival and reattachment;

4. Relocate any dislocated sponges and gorgonian colonies to an appropriate area of the reef and stabilize;

5. Stabilize, or stockpile off site (rubble piles in the sand), any coral rubble likely to move, threaten existing resources or slow down recovery.


Although ultimately an unfortunate accident, three principal parties share responsibility for the events that lead to the significant anchor damage:

 The Port Authority of the Cayman Islands;

 Bodden Shipping Agents and the Port Pilot;

 The Carnival Magic.

 Criminal prosecution and legal accountability under the Marine Conservation Law, although possible, would be a difficult, costly and lengthy course of action, particularly with one Government entity potentially being at fault.

The Cayman Islands’ Government should approach the three organizations involved and implore on their corporate and social responsibility to finance a comprehensive restoration of the site.

 The Government should aim for a financial contribution of at least CI$2,000,000 to ensure that precedent for high dollar values attributed to reefs are maintained and to send a clear message of the value the Government places on its natural resources.

 Any contributed funds should be used to continue ongoing restoration efforts of the site.

Alternatively, a dedicated professional coral reef restoration team could be funded and appointed to carry out the restoration with assistance from the local dive community and regulatory oversight and management by the DOE. This situation is comparable to the 1996 Soto’s Reef restoration funded by Holland America when its vessel ‘Maasdam’ ran aground in George Town Harbour.


Ebersole JP (2001) Recovery of fish assemblages from ship groundings on coral reefs in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Bulletin of Marine Science 69(2): 655-671

Hatcher B (1984) A maritime accident provides evidence for alternative stable states in benthic communities on coral reefs. Coral Reefs 3: 199-204

Hudson JH, Díaz R (1988) Damage survey and restoration of M/V Wellwood grounding site., Molasses Reef, Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary, Florida. Proceedings of the Sixth International Coral Reef Symposium 2: 231-236. Townsville, Australia.

Hudson JH, Goodwin WB (2001) Assessment of vessel grounding injury to coral reef and seagrass habitats in the Florida Keys national Marine Sanctuary, Florida: protocol and methods. Bulletin of Maine Science 69(2): 509-516

Jaap WC (2000) Coral reef restoration. Ecological Engineering 15: 345-364

Miller MW, Barimo J (2001) Assessment of juvenile coral populations at two reef restoration sites in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary: indicators of success? Bulletin of Marine Science 69(2): 395-405

Precht WF (1998) The art and science of reef restoration. Geotimes 43(1): 16-20

Precht WF, Aronson RB, Swanson DW (2001) Improving scientific decision-making in the restoration of ship-grounding sites on coral reefs. Bulletin of Marine Science 69(2): 1001-

Riegl B (2001) Degradation of reef structure, coral and fish communities in the Red Sea by ship groundings and dynamite fisheries. Bulletin of Marine Science 69(2): 595-611


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