Asia

UK ambassador to Indonesia summoned over coral damage

This photo taken on 4 March 2017 shows the Caledonian Sky in Raja Ampat, eastern Indonesia. Image copyright AFP
Image caption The government has promised to take firm action over the incident

Indonesia has summoned the British ambassador after a ship operated by a British company ran aground on a coral reef, causing extensive damage.

On 4 March, the 4,290-ton Caledonian Sky hit reefs off an island in Raja Ampat, Papua province, at low tide.

The eastern region is famous for its biodiversity and the boat was taking tourists on a bird-watching expedition.

Local people, who rely on dive and environmental tourism, were devastated by the damage to the pristine reef.

"I was born here, I was in tears when I saw this damage," Ruben Sauyai told the BBC.

The damage was made worse by failed attempts to pull the ship off the coral with a tug boat, without waiting for high tide.

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Media captionDivers' videos showed large areas of destroyed coral.

After being summoned to a meeting with Indonesia's Co-ordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, Luhut Panjaitan, the UK ambassador Moazzam Malik said he had a "very good discussion" and was "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".

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 operators Noble Caledonia had previously described it as an "unfortunate" incident and said the company was "firmly committed to protection of the environment".

The ship itself is reportedly owned by a Swedish company and was described as "undamaged" by Noble Caledonia, before it sailed on to the Philippines, to the anger of some Indonesian officials.

Image caption The remote region attracts intrepid travellers

An early official evaluation last week said the incident damaged approximately 1,600sq m (17,220sq ft) of coral.

There has been outrage in Indonesia and local officials have suggested the captain could face criminal charges.

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