Leaking oil poses threat to Great Barrier Reef
Fears of environmental disaster after Chinese vessel that strayed outside shipping lane runs aground
Monday 05 April 2010
A coal-carrying ship that strayed outside a shipping lane and ran aground in protected waters was leaking oil on Australia's Great Barrier Reef and was in danger of breaking apart, officials said last night. The Chinese Shen Neng 1 ran aground late on Saturday on Douglas Shoals, a favourite pristine haunt for recreational fishing east of the Great Keppel Island tourist resort.
The shoals – off the coast of Queensland state in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park – are in a protected part of the reef where shipping is restricted by environmental law. Authorities fear an oil spill will damage the world's largest coral reef, which is off north-east Australia and listed as a World Heritage site. The ship hit the reef at full speed, nine miles outside the shipping lane, State Premier Anna Bligh said. A police boat was standing by to remove the 23 crew if the ship broke apart.
Patches of oil were seen nearby early yesterday, but Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) reported no major loss from the 950 tons of oil on board. "We are now very worried we might see further oil discharged from this ship," Ms Bligh said.
Patrick Quirk, the general manager of MSQ, said the vessel was badly damaged on its port side. "We are still very concerned about the ship," he said. "It is in danger of actually breaking into a number of parts." A salvage contract had been signed, but the operation would be difficult and assessing the damage to the ship is expected to take a week. Ms Bligh said she feared the salvage operation could spill more oil, which could reach the mainland coast within two days. Local emergency crews have been put on standby to clean up any oil that reaches mainland beaches.
The Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett said authorities had been working through the night to determine what risks the ship posed to the environment. "The government is very conscious of the importance of the Great Barrier Reef environment and ensuring that impacts on its ecology are effectively managed," he said.
The 230-metre bulk carrier was carrying about 65,000 tons of coal to China and ran aground within hours of leaving the Queensland port of Gladstone. Conservationists have expressed outrage that bulk carriers can travel through the reef without a marine pilot with local expertise to guide them. "The state government is being blinded by royalties and their shortsightedness will go down in history as killing the reef," said Larissa Waters, spokeswoman for the Queensland Greens.
Ms Bligh said the question of when ships should require a marine pilot on the reef was under review because of the increase in freight traffic that will travel near it following the signing of new gas and coal export contracts to China. She said a separate inquiry would determine how the Shen Neng 1 came to stray from its shipping lane.
elephant appealPrince William signs up for our charity appeal
arts + entsThere were towering ideas, some scintillating performances and revelatory grooves... our writers pick out their personal highlights
peoplePrepare to be entranced by worms as the molecular biologist gets ready to give the Royal Institution science lectures
elephant appealSo says man jailed for cutting off dead elephant's tusks
booksWe examine the best titles for teens
voicesPeople moan that Christmas is too commercial, the spirit lost. But it is a time to over-indulge, and always has been, says DJ Taylor
scienceResearchers teach border collie to understand sentences using more than 1,000 words
travelWill high-value tourism help the artisan workshops of this Renaissance city?
food + drinkA trifle without custard? Surely not! Nonsense – and here’s three to finish your festive meal that prove it
Geoffrey Macnab does not like the comedian's big screen debut
French pub fined €9,000 after customers returned empties to bar - because it's 'undeclared labour'
Ten best places to live in the UK: Hart in Hampshire takes top spot
Winter Solstice marks shortest day of the year
Burglar steals video tapes of child abuse, hands them into police
Paul Walker's daughter Meadow attends Justin Bieber Believe premiere
Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’ says UK evangelist
Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
David Cameron takes his biggest gamble yet as he gets tough on Europe over immigration
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
Anachronistic and iniquitous, grammar schools are a blot on the British education system
Scientists ‘incredibly concerned’ for fate of banana as plagues and fungus infections spread across world’s supplies
- 1 Tim Sherwood challenges Daniel Levy to set out vision for Tottenham Hotspur’s future
- 2 French pub fined €9,000 after customers returned empties to bar - because it's 'undeclared labour'
- 3 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 4 #Teamnigella: It’s the only side to be on
- 5 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
- < Previous
- Next >
£40000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits : Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer (WPF...
£45000 - £65000 per annum + London: Harrington Starr: Senior Automation QA Eng...
Negotiable: Capita Education Resourcing Permanent Team: Year 6 Teacher - Gilli...
Negotiable: Capita Education Resourcing Permanent Team: Teacher of English - S...