$117,000 fine issued against Trust for luxury yacht grounding at Honolua Bay in February
July 29, 2023, 12:14 PM HST
* Updated July 29, 2:16 PM
The state Board of Land and Natural Resources issued a $117,471.97 fine against the Albert Revocable Trust for stony coral and live rock damage caused by the grounding of the private luxury yacht Nakoa at Honolua Bay in northwest Maui earlier this year.
The fine included $400 for violations, more than $60,000 in assessed resource value, and more than $56,000 in administrative costs.
The board is still contemplating and is open to seeking penalties against the operator, Jim Jones and Noelani Yacht Charters, LLC, for damages done to cultural and natural resources.
“Because DLNR normally does not go aggressively after vessel owners who ground their vessel and cause damage. But in this matter, because of the public outcry, and because of our own concerns that the vessel was so close to the Marine Life Conservation District, we felt compelled to take this necessary action,” said Chang.
Board member, Doreen Canto, of Maui moved to accept the settlement agreement recommendations regarding the Albert Revocable Trust and defer decisions that relate to the operator, Jim Jones and Noelani Yacht Charters, LLC. “We primarily want more community input, such as cultural impact from the Nakoa grounding incident,” said Canto.
An extra condition was also suggested that: state employees and contractors will not be brought into other claims by Albert’s in the US District Court. Randall Schmitt, the attorney for the Albert’s said he did not have any objection to state employees, but he did have an issue with including contractors, and wanted to discuss the matter with his client before agreeing to the condition.
The board agreed to accept staff amended recommendations to accept settlement agreement with Albert Trust and authorize chair and AGs to negotiate terms in the best interest in the state.
Board member Wesley “Kaiwi” Yoon said the board is still contemplating and is open to seeking any kind of fair and reasonable penalty against the operator for damages done to cultural and natural resources.
“I personally struggle with the fact that there is no abacus or calculus to even begin to quantify adverse effect to cultural resources might cost. I’m hopeful that with this board and this administration that we can soon take those steps to contemplate that… sometimes the cultural resource evaluation is a whole new territory. The good news is that I think we are all open and willing and wanting to really take a look at that going forward, so we can have a more cohesive kind of response to unfortunate circumstances like this,” said Yoon.
Board Chair Chang acknowledged the pain of seeing the vessel where it didn’t belong saying, “I don’t think the board in any way intends to diminish the anger, pain, [or] frustration by this community.”
She pointed towards Yoon’s earlier comments regarding damage just outside of a marine life conservation district saying, “our cultural and natural resources don’t see the boundaries of what’s inside and what’s out.”
Chang said the action against Jones and the Nakoa was in line with the serious damage caused. “They should not be able to operate any commercial activities on our ocean waters. He has not demonstrated that kind of trust. This is not over… but again, this action by the board is intended to try to be made whole, and recognize the pangs and the hurts by the community; but also trying to find a way to move forward and hold the responsible parties accountable,” said Chair Chang.
“For some, it may not be enough, but I will tell you that for the purposes of DLNR, this was all hands on deck, DOCARE was out there for 2-3 weeks, the salvage crew was trying to figure out how to do this. Having this cooperation with the Trust is very helpful, because we have already spent a lot of time on this, and I’d like us to move on to a lot of the other good work of the department,” said Dawn Chang, Chairperson.
Timeline (Feb. 20 – March 5, 2023):
The grounding occurred on Feb. 20, 2023, just outside of the Honolua-Mokulēʻia Bay Marine Life Conservation District.
According to submittals outlining the incident, the vessel had moored overnight inside Honolua Bay. Under the terms of the Nakoa’s insurance policy, the Nakoa was only to be captained by a listed and approved captain, not the one at the helm when the vessel grounded.
The Nakoa’s anchor alarm reportedly sounded, alerting the crew that the Nakoa had become adrift, but the Nakoa ultimately grounded upon the rocky coastline between Honolua Bay and Līpoa Point, according to state documents.
Over the course of the next two weeks, DLNR and the USCG took various steps to defuel the Nakoa, remove its batteries, and remove the vessel from the coastline. Ultimately, the yacht was federalized with the USCG assuming responsibility for battery and fuel removal.
The timeline provided by the state detailed salvage efforts:
“On March 5, 2023, the salvage ship Kahi, operated by Visionary Marine LLC, and the tugboat Mary Catherine, operated by Sause Brothers Inc., (the salvage team) worked in tandem to move the Nakoa off the shoreline and into open water. The Nakoa quickly took on water due to a breach of the hull from the grounding incident, and the vessel began to list to one side while riding ‘bow high.’ The salvage team ultimately decided that the Nakoa was unsalvageable and made the decision to scuttle the vessel in approximately 800 feet of water off the coast of Honolua Bay, which is where it remains today.”
Following the vessel removal, the Maui DAR conducted a second site assessment on March 7, 2023, of the damage to natural resources caused by the grounding incident. This assessment focused on the impact to hard bottom habitat along the secondary grounding scar and along the salvage scar.
The Maui DAR concluded that a total of 1,640.5 square meters of live rock was damaged and at least 119 living coral colonies were damaged or destroyed.
“We realize that for the Maui community, especially those who cherish Honolua Bay, this settlement may be disappointing and not enough. However, under this tentative settlement with the Albert Trust, the State will receive almost $600,000 for the removal the vessel, coral damage, and administrative fines. We will continue to aggressively pursue those who harm our cultural and natural resources,” said DLNR Chair Dawn Chang said in a news release issued on Saturday.
The salvage costs were covered by the owner’s boat insurance and exceeded $450,000.
A damage assessment and justification of fees was included in the state’s assessment of the incident. The full report is available here.
*Additional information was added to the original post to include salvage costs and further settlement details.