Conservationists criticise government over coal ship grounding on Great Barrier Reef

Conservationists have criticised the Queensland State Government and Federal Government for the expansion of LNG and coal for export without acknowledging the environmental harm that will be caused both on land and sea by these industries. Chinese bulk coal carrier the Shen Neng 1 grounded on a reef, is leaking oil and in danger of breakup in a restricted zone about 70km east of Great Keppel Island. It grounded just after 5pm Saturday April 3, 15km from the nearest shipping channel in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, a World Heritage listed area.

The ship, carrying 65,000 tonnes of coal. is leaking fuel oil that has produced a slick 3km long by 100m wide. The ship is understood to have approximately 975 tonnes of heavy fuel oil onboard. There is some risk the ship may break up, with the ship at risk of more damage on the reef with the current 2-3m swell.

Ian Herbert, spokeperson for the Capricorn Conservation Council was horrified that a Chinese coal carrier had run aground near Great Keppel Island. "We can be certain that this is a sign of things to come" said CCC spokesman Ian Herbert. "A year ago - Moreton Island, yesterday - Great Keppel Island, next year - who knows where? Who knows what damage will be done to our local coral reefs and marine animals from the oil spill from the ship? We are outraged that no marine pilot is required on ships between Gladstone and Cairns."

"We are now faced with a ridiculous proposal to build a brand new coal port on Balaclava Island at the mouth of the Fitzroy River. Ships from this port will have to navigate the treacherously shallow waters of Keppel Bay at the mouth of the Fitzroy River. What hope is there for the future survival of local coral reefs fringing the Keppel Bay Islands?" said Mr Herbert. He called for the industry, not the taxpayer, to foot the bill for the full cost of the clean up.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh told the Brisbane Times "This ship is in a very damaged condition and the worry now is that the salvage operation may disturb the ship in a way that sees more oil discharged into the water," Ms Bligh said. "It will require a serious and specialist salvage operation,."

Maritime Safety Queensland activated a national oil spill response plan on April 4 after the bulk carrier ran aground. Dispersants have been deployed twice on oil leaking from the carrier.

Maritime Safety Queensland General Manager, Patrick Quirk, said the initial damage report was that the main engine room was breached, the main engine damaged and the rudder seriously damaged. "One of the most worrying aspects is that the ship is still moving on the reef to the action of the seas, which is doing further damage," he said in an update 5th April.

A specialist salvage team, including two tugs to stabilize the stricken vessel, is preparing to board the bulk coal carrier to plan the retrieval operation. At this stage the Captain and all crew have remained aboard.

Australian Greens Leader Bob Brown has criticised both Federal and Queensland state governments for failure to mandate use of marine pilots for navigating the channels through the reefs thus threatening the Great Barrier Reef. "The failure to insist on pilots has been reckless. This is a potential disaster in one of the world's greatest natural wonders. But both the Rudd and Bligh governments are planning massive expansion of coal exports throughout the Great Barrier Reef region with no plans for mandatory piloting," Senator Brown added.

Greens spokeswoman Larissa Waters said the cost of engaging a marine pilot for the length of the Reef would be $8,000- $10,000 according the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. "Government is bending over backwards to increase exports of fossil fuels, rather than investing in job rich clean renewable energy which safeguards our reef," Ms Waters told the Brisbane Times, "The state government is being blinded by royalties and this short-sightedness will go down in history as killing the Reef."

Criticism has also come from Queensland Seafood Industry Association. Spokesperson Michael Gardiner told the ABC that there is more monitoring of fishing trawlers than large coal ships. "All trawl vessels in Queensland are required to have a vessel monitoring device in place seven days a week, 24 hours a day," he said. "Here we've got these massive ships fully laden with coal and fuel oil traversing part of the marine park, and there's certain parts there where there's no vessel tracking at all." he said.




china should have an injunction on its ability to operate outside its perimeter..they are truly the inept 3rd world clumsily regurgitating the last 150 years of industrial revolution ignorance.. fact is, china hides ownership and then refuses to adhere to law regarding accidents.. they were supposed to have responders already on contract and to notify immediately.. in the u.s. they have spilled in 2 major natural resources and then claimed they didnt have to clean it up becuz they are not u.s. citizens... they used some of there money to pay off the govt officials with 5 star hotels and cateerrd foods ( for the selendang ayu) and then submitted a reimbursement of over 80 million that u.s tax payers had to pay .. all while they still to this day have never paid to have oil spill containment mitigation nets made that were supposed to be distributed throughout the world ports.. so far they have spilled in every region of the pacific. australia should take over the wheelhouse and engine room and able seamen jobs and then allow them to recieve the coal or the even though they should shutdown cancer causing concepts of making money and empowering 3rd world billionaires who laugh at the demise being brought on the 1 st world in the last 10 years..since w.t.o.1999... we are on the second decade of china imploding everything outside their perimeter and the fool in the australian govt who speaks mandarin thinks he has an advantage in solving a problem when all he is doing is licking the ass of a 3rd world culture

You gotta be serious you sinophobic person. might want to make some analysis on white australian or american ships?

Well, china isn't alone in being a fucked 3rd world nation, infact china is actually much better with socialistic policies created by Mao Tse tung's revolution. They are much more progressive in environmental issues than any nation on earth, and they are 3rd worlders the exempt lot from the kyoto protocol!

Dont blame the government for this tragedy mate, it was the corporations that did this. Where are the evidence for your claims? Please dont get into paranoid anti-government superstition without facts.

careful and be weary of racist, nationalistic, and anti-socialist capitalist western accusations against china mate. the bourgeois media is already capitalising on this opportunistic key event to sow hate and division; and a fear that chinese ships will start invading and crashing ARGH!!

The problems are with the australia government by not providing enough assistance for the avoidance of the crashing into reefs.