24 Jun 2013
'White Cloud' captain faces legal charges
By Lulu Trask
The ex-captain of Feadship’s 65m superyacht White Cloud is the subject of a legal investigation pertaining to the damage of coral reefs in the Turks and Caicos islands – coincidently within a matter of weeks a similar occurrence took place surrounding superyacht Milk and Honey. SuperyachtNews.com spoke exclusively with the ex-captain of White Cloud (who was captain at the time of the incident and has asked not to be named while the investigation is ongoing) about the details of the investigation.
The 65m motoryacht anchored in the Turks and Caicos islands on 28 March, in an area which the ex-captain was informed to be the “preferred large yacht anchorage” on the North West side of Providenciales. The yacht’s anchor dragged due to high winds. Subsequently, damage to the surrounding coral reef and sea bed occurred. On 1 April the yacht’s anchorage was reported by the Department of Environment and Maritime Affairs (DEMA). According to other media reports, Kathleen Woods, director of DEMA, has accused the captain of lacking the permit to anchor in the region.
Charges initially faced the yacht’s engineer, as well as its then-captain, but since then the charges against the yacht’s engineer have been dropped. The ex-captain faces four charges: one concerning anchoring a vessel over 60 feet outside of the National Park Authorities Commission; the other three charges relate to damaging the coral and the sea bed.
At the time of the incident, White Cloud had one engine out of operation and this is the reason why the yacht's then-captain claimed he would not move the boat, having been asked to do so by DEMA. “Myself, the first officer and the engineer decided that if wind was anything above fifteen knots it would be unsafe to move the boat,” explained the captain. When the yacht was asked to move by DEMA, the captain highlighted this and referred to the authority of a yacht’s master as outlined in SOLAS. The winds on the day of the incident were above a consistent 20 knots and gusting as high as 32 knots, said the ex-captain.
The captain has since been in discussions with Woods, in a bid to improve the situation and help repair any damage done. “I went into the meeting and said, ‘We know there has been some damage caused and we deeply regret that’s happened; and we want to work with you to help fix or remedy it,’” the captain told SuperyachtNews.com.
However, speaking with SuperyachtNews.com, the captain of White Cloud was adamant that better systems need to be in place to stop these types of incidents happening again, as it did in such quick success with superyacht Milk and Honey. “Obviously there is going to be a fine on me at some stage, and I said if possible I’d like some of the funds to go towards better publications and information for visiting yachtsmen about anchorage and clearing, and also to establishing large vessel mooring seals so that we don’t have to anchor.”
The yacht's owners were not on board at the time of the incident and White Cloud is now under a new captain who has no involvement in the investigation.
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