The owner of Benetti-built motor yacht Formosa could be facing misdemeanour charges and a series of fines following alleged damage by the vessel to a coral reef in Hawaii.
The 60-metre (196-foot) superyacht, built in 2015, is said to have been anchored in shallow water too close to Kailua Pier navigation channel in the popular tourist hub of Kailua on the island of Oahu.
Brooke Landt, a captain with Big Island Watersports who noticed the precarious position in which Formosa was anchored, told local paper West Hawaii Today that although the superyacht was originally out in the main bay, it later moved considerably closer to shore – “nearly right off the pier”.
Landt tipped off the relevant authorities about the potential damage at 2:00pm on Tuesday, 9th October. She revealed to West Hawaii Today that she and others had “hopped in the water to document what was happening”.
“The whole boat was shifting back and forth dragging the chain across the coral,” she added, pointing out the breezy conditions along the shore. “The anchor was resting on coral. It hit nothing but coral.”
After being notified, and following three separate dives at two reported anchorage spots, the US Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) Division of Aquatic Resources began work on a coral damage assessment to pass on to the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE).
The department also confirmed that it had informed the yacht’s agent – identified only as ‘Captain Nicholas’ – that he was anchored in an improper area.
“This ship had stopped for a one-day visit about a week ago and anchored in deeper water with a sandy bottom. Unfortunately, there was a change of crew and a new captain. He was not informed of a proper location to drop anchor,” the department’s communications office told West Hawaii Today. “The DOBOR manager advised the captain it was his responsibility to not damage the environment when dropping anchor.”
According to Hawaiian law, it is unlawful to take, break or damage any stony coral. The punitive action may include petty misdemeanour charges and/or a criminal fine of up to $1,000 depending on the number of offences. Administrative fines of up to $1,000 per specimen may also be applied.
An investigation into the damage is ongoing.
The superyacht is listed on Fraser Yachts’ website as available for charter. She can house up to 12 guests and 15 crew, and costs approximately $460,000 per week to charter.