Crew to be quizzed over Barrier Reef incident

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

A A A

The crew of a coal-carrying ship that ran aground on Australia's Great Barrier Reef and is leaking oil will be questioned today about why their vessel was in a restricted area, an official said.



Two tugboats were sent yesterday to stabilise the Chinese-registered Shen Neng 1 so that it would not break apart and further damage the fragile coral beneath.



Late on Saturday, the Shen Neng 1 rammed into Douglas Shoals, an area that has shipping restrictions in order to protect what is the world's largest coral reef and one that is listed as a World Heritage site because of its gleaming waters and environmental value as home to thousands of marine species.



"We've always said the vessel is up in an area it shouldn't be in the first place," Marine Safety Queensland general manager Patrick Quirk said.



"How it got to that to that position will be the subject of a detailed investigation by the Australian Transport Safety Board."



Mr Quirk said the agency was aware that other ships sometimes used a shortcut through the reef, a practice that will also be reviewed by the federal government.



The ship's owner, Shenzhen Energy, a subsidiary of the Cosco Group that is China's largest shipping operator, could be fined up to one million Australian dollars (920,000 US dollars) for straying from a shipping lane used by 6,000 cargo vessels each year.



"This is a very delicate part of one of the most precious marine environments on earth and there are safe authorised shipping channels - and that's where this ship should have been," Queensland state Premier Anna Bligh said.



She said a boom will be put around the ship today to contain oil leaking from the hull. Aircraft sprayed chemical dispersants in an effort to break up the slick on Sunday.



"Our number one priority is keeping this oil off the Barrier Reef and keeping it contained," she said.



Authorities fear the ship will break apart during the salvage operation and wreck more coral, or spill more of its heavy fuel oil into the sun-soaked sea. However, Ms Bligh said the risk of the ship breaking apart appeared to have lessened since the first of two tug boats arrived and reduced its movement.



Ms Bligh said it could take weeks to dislodge the ship.



"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" to the coral and hull, Mr Quirk said.



A police boat was standing by to evacuate the 23 crew members if the ship breaks apart.



The bulk carrier was taking about 72,000 tons of coal to China from the Queensland port of Gladstone when it slammed into the shoals off Queensland's coast in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.



Numerous conservation groups expressed outrage that bulk carriers can travel through the reef without a specialised marine pilot.



Shipping lanes in Australian waters typically require a seasoned captain to go aboard an incoming ship to help navigate around hazards. Until now, the government has said there is no need for marine pilots around the protected area because large ships are banned there.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is an 11-16 mixed commun...

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...

Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough, Cam...

Ashdown Group: C# Developer - (C#, VB.Net, SQL, Git, TDD)

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Developer (C#, VB & ASP.Net, SQL Server, TSQL) - Pe...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy