Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s firm is working with authorities in the Cayman Islands amid reports that the billionaire’s 300-foot luxury yacht destroyed 14,000 square feet of protected coral reef.
According to the Cayman News Service, the anchor chain of the MV Tatoosh caused “extensive damage” to the reef earlier this month.
Allen, 63, is worth $18.1 billion,Â according to Forbes, and lists coral-reef research among his philanthropic projects.
His Seattle-based company Vulcan said in a statement Wednesday the boat’s mooring position was “explicitly directed” by the local port authority. The firm told Reuters that Allen was not on board at the time.
“When its crew was alerted by a diver that her anchor chain may have impacted coral in the area, the crew promptly, and on their own accord, relocated their position to ensure the reef was protected,” the statement said.
It added that Vulcan and the ship’s crew were “actively and cooperatively working with local authorities to determine the details of what happened.”
The area allegedly affected is about the size of three NBA courts.
The Tatoosh is the 49th largest yacht in the world â€” measuring more than 300 feet, boasting five decks, and staffed by a crew of 30, according to the London-based Boat International magazine.
The vessel is “the model of understated luxury,” according to the magazine, and includes an observation lounge, a gym, a cinema and a swimming pool. It also has two helipads â€” one for the ship’s own helicopter and another for guests’ aircraft.
The alleged incident happened on January 14 in a protected area of Cayman reef called the West Bay replenishment zone, which is close to two popular scuba diving sites.
“Early findings already indicate extensive damage,” a spokesman from the Cayman Islands’ Department of Environment told the Cayman News Service, adding that officials were “also paying close attention to lessons learned so that we can more effectively prevent these accidents while still hosting visiting yachts.”
Any vessel that damages reefs can be fined under Cayman law, according to the news service.
The incident comes just five months after Allen announced support for research to “stabilize and restore coral reefs,” one of several philanthropic projects he has aided through Vulcan.
Allen left Microsoft after he was diagnosed Hodgkin’s disease in the 1980s, and when he won his battle with the cancer “started living large, buying mega-yachts known to land at places like Cannes and the Sochi Olympics,” according to Forbes.
The Cayman Islands’ Department of Environment was not available for comment when contacted by NBC News early Friday.