The vessel’s investors were fined $117,000 but the board wants more time to decide what consequences the owner should face.

The investors behind a luxury yacht that ran aground in Honolua Bay reached a tentative settlement agreement with state officials on Friday over environmental damages to one of Maui’s most pristine marine sanctuaries.


Kevin and Kimberly Albert of New Mexico agreed to pay nearly $117,500 in fines for the incident. The couple financed the vessel that crashed into the rocky shoreline and spilled diesel fuel in the ocean in February.

There are likely to be more damages to pay. Jim Jones, the Honolulu-based owner of the 120-ton, 94-foot Nakoa yacht, and his company Noelani Yacht Charters, are also at fault. 

The maximum penalty Jones and his company could pay is $1.76 million. But the Board of Land and Natural Resources deferred its decision about whether and how much to fine Jones and his yacht charter, saying it wants more time to consider public input on the less tangible cultural impacts of the crash.

A luxury yacht ran aground on Maui on Feb. 20. (Courtesy: DLNR/2023)
A luxury yacht ran aground on Maui on Feb. 20. (Courtesy: DLNR/2023)

“This is not over,” BLNR Chairwoman Dawn Chang said, adding that in her opinion Jones should not be allowed to operate any commercial business in Hawaii waters.

The BLNR unanimously approved the Alberts’ settlement proposal with the added stipulation that the couple refrain from bringing state employees and contractors into any legal claims, including the investors’ $2 million lawsuit against Noelani Yacht Charters, Jones and the captain on the day of the wreck. The concern is that salvage companies and other contractors might pass on working for the state in the future if doing so could open them up to litigation.

The Alberts’ attorney Randall Schmitt said during the regularly scheduled public meeting that he would consult with his clients about the extra condition. The board authorized Chang to finalize negotiations.

“DLNR normally does not go aggressively after vessel owners who ground their vessels and cause damage but in this matter, because of the public outcry and because of our own concerns — the vessel was so close to the marine life conservation district — we felt compelled to take this necessary action,” Chang said. “For some it may not be enough.”

It would be unprecedented for the BLNR to seek the maximum penalty from Jones and his yacht charter. 

Penalties for vessel groundings are usually calculated by the state based on considerations including the number, size and species rarity of damaged coral colonies. In this case, the amount of damaged marine resources is relatively low.

The yacht damaged 119 coral colonies, whereas other recent vessel groundings have damaged upwards of 1,000 colonies, according to Charlie Taylor, legal fellow for the DLNR’s Division of Aquatic Resources. The two species of coral that suffered damage are relatively common.

Nearly half an acre of rock that hosts marine life was also damaged by the Nakoa yacht.

“If this event occurred on the Kona coast, we would be talking millions of dollars because there’s so much higher coral cover there compared to Honolua Bay,” explained DAR Administrator Brian Neilson.

DAR officials recommended that the BLNR fine the responsible parties $117,500 — a sum equal to the amount of the tentative settlement agreement between the state and yacht’s investors. The settlement does not preclude the state from seeking further damages from Jones and his charter company.

Several members of the public who spoke at the meeting expressed dismay with this small sum.

“A slap on the wrist would be a slap in the face of the community,” said West Maui environmental activist Kai Nishiki.

Although state investigators thoroughly probed the toll of the yacht crash on the reef, several board members noted a lack of accounting of the crash’s impact on Hawaiian customs and traditions and public recreation. 

“I personally struggle with the fact that there is no abacus or calculator to even begin to quantify how much adverse effect to cultural resources this might have cost,” said BLNR member Wesley “Kaiwi” Yoon.

Chang also noted that the public was barred from accessing the bay for weeks in the aftermath of the yacht crash. The vessel remained stuck on the rocky coastline in extremely shallow water for almost two weeks, until it was hauled away and sank on its way to Oahu

Divers found that scars from the vessel stretched almost 250 feet into the deeper water. In that area, more than 100 coral colonies were affected, and damage to live rock covered nearly 2,099 square feet, according to a DLNR news release. 

The agency has said it won’t hold the salvage company or tug company that pulled the boat off the reef responsible for any damage. 

Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by grants from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation and the Fred Baldwin Memorial Foundation.

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