updated 5/1/2007 7:31:57 PM ET 2007-05-01T23:31:57

The government said Tuesday it has banned cruise ships from anchoring at a port where their huge chains have damaged coral reefs.

Environmental officials say some coral can be preserved despite extensive damage along the sea floor near the Spotts Dock facility, which is used as an alternative port when seas are too rough for cruise ships to call on the George Town harbor.

"Because cruise ships are the biggest vessels to use the area regularly, their chains tend to cause a lot of the damage," said John Bothwell, a research officer with the British Caribbean territory's environment department.

A cruise ship anchoring for one day can destroy nearly an 1 acre of intact reef, he said.

Cruise ships capable of holding their position without anchoring will still be allowed to unload passengers in Spotts Bay, about 10 miles east of the capital.

The ban had been in place previously, but Port Authority director Paul Hurlston reinstated it effective April 19 after officials noticed ships were anchoring again.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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