By Associated Press - Friday, March 17, 2017

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) - Indonesia’s government summoned the British ambassador on Friday to discuss compensation for the destruction of coral reefs by a cruise ship chartered by a British tour company in a tourist area known for outstanding marine biodiversity.

The 4,200-ton cruise ship M.V. Caledonian Sky ran aground on coral reefs in the waters of Raja Ampat in West Papua province on March 4, causing extensive damage.

Indonesia’s senior minister for maritime affairs, Luhut Pandjaitan, summoned Ambassador Moazzam Malik to discuss the damage. The ministry has described the destruction of the reefs as irreparable.

“I am disappointed to learn about the damage to these coral reefs in West Papua,” Malik said. “We support the Indonesian authorities’ plan and their intent to investigate the matter and to see restitution for the damage.”

He expressed hope that the matter could be resolved quickly, but noted that the ship “is owned, managed, crewed and operated by a Swedish company based in Gottenberg.”

The tour operator, London-based Noble Caledonia, has acknowledged responsibility for the damage and said it is working toward “a fair and realistic settlement.”

“We are working with local experts to understand how we can assist with the regeneration of the reef. We value our relationships around the world with local people and we are sorry to have impacted the local community,” it said in a statement on its website.

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

A preliminary investigation found that the ship destroyed about 1,600 square meters (17,200 square feet) of coral in the heart of the archipelago, which has more than 1,500 small islands, cays, and shoals.

Brahmantya Satyamurti Poerwadi, a senior official at the Ministry of Maritime and Fisheries, has said the government will soon file lawsuits against the ship and its captain on charges of violating the 2004 Law on Fisheries and the 2009 Law on Environment Protection.

Each law carries jail terms of up to three years for negligence leading to destruction.

Indonesian officials say the ship, which was carrying 102 passengers and 79 crew members, sailed on to Bitung in North Sulawesi province without waiting for an assessment of the damage.

Pandjaitan said authorities are investigating why the ship left even though police had asked it to stay.

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