Posted by: reefrescue | April 7, 2010

Oil Spill Threatens Great Barrier Reef

Apr 5, 9:20 PM EDT

Australia questions crew of ship that ran aground

By ROB GRIFFITH
Associated Press Writer

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

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

Late 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.”

Quirk said the agency was aware that other ships sometimes used a shortcut through thereef, 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 1 million Australian dollars ($920,000) 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 authorized shipping channels – and that’s where this ship should have been,” Queensland state Premier Anna Bligh said Monday. (read more)

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