M/Y Formosa Owner Pays $100K for Anchoring in Coral

1 September 2020 By Staff Report

On October 2, 2018, M/Y Formosa anchored within Kailua Bay, Hawaii, in coral and too shallow water, damaging stony coral and live rock within the Kona Coast Fisheries Management Area. Her owner will pay $100,000 in a settlement meted with the state, local media West Hawaii Today reports.  

The Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources voted 6-1 on August 28, 2020, to approve the settlement agreement, and the money will go into “a trust fund to be used for coral management and restoration in the West Hawaii region,” West Hawaii Today reports.

As reported by West Hawaii Today, the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) submittal stated that photos and video show Formosa’s anchor and chain lying on coral and that “the surrounding area was marked by bright white exposed coral skeleton, suggesting that the anchor chain had dragged across the reef as it rotated around the anchor.” The incident caused damage and breakage of approximately 431 specimens of stony coral and approximately 14 square meters of live rock.

Formosa dropped anchor at 7 a.m. and DAR was made aware of the incident at 2:30 p.m. Local marine companies Big Island Water Sports and Atlantis Submarines documented the incident. Later that afternoon, the vessel re-anchored in deeper water while under observation of DAR staff, who confirmed the new anchorage was in sand and secure.

While DAR Program Manager David Sakoda told West Hawaii Today that the staff estimated a proposed fine of $153,400, plus $5,123 for the cost of the follow-up investigation, they agreed to a proposed settlement of $100,00 and recommended the board accept it because of the difficulty in pursuing the violation against the foreign-flagged vessel.

Some of what the panel discussed included who is responsible under maritime law when a foreign vessel causes damage; the captain was unfamiliar with the area and the Pacific Islands Pilot booklet only indicates “the bottom of Kailua Bay sand, making no mention of coral.” Their documentation may possibly not substantiate all the findings. The 197-foot yacht is also about to be sold, which would also create complications.

Spending most of her time in Asia, Formosa had been to Hawaii prior to the incident but not Kailua-Kona and hasn’t returned to Hawaii since then.