'Significant' Damage to Barrier Reef from Ship

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Agence France-Presse

'Significant' Damage to Barrier Reef from Ship

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The Chinese coal carrier Shen Neng 1 ran aground near Australia's Great Barrier Reef off the coast of the state of Queensland. Australian authorities refloated the ship that had been stranded on the Great Barrier Reef for over a week after running aground, averting a potential environmental crisis.

SYDNEY – A massive Chinese ship
caused "significant" damage to the famed Great Barrier Reef after
smashing into its delicate corals and getting stuck for more than a
week, Australian officials said on Tuesday.

Workers who
surveyed the site after the Shen Neng 1 was refloated and towed away
late on Monday reported a one-kilometre (half-a-mile) scar across the
world heritage-listed reef, the marine park's head said.

Russell
Reichelt, chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority,
said toxic anti-fouling paint pasted on the coal-carrier's hull was
also killing corals, home to a plethora of colourful sea life.

"They
have found significant scarring and coral damage they've also found
quite a lot of anti-fouling (paint) spread across the reef," Reichelt
told ABC public radio.

"It is a concern because it's designed
to be toxic and stop things growing on ships. We've already seen
observations where anti-fouling paint that's been scraped off onto the
reef is killing corals in its vicinity."

An approaching storm
hurried authorities into refloating the 230-metre (750 feet) ship --
the length of two football pitches -- after nightfall on Monday, by
pumping compressed air into its bunkers and pulling it free using
tugboats.

Officials expressed cautious optimism that the
operation had been carried out without adding to the two-tonne oil
spill which created a three-kilometre slick after the off-course ship
crashed on April 3.

Divers were due to assess damage to the
ship, which has been towed to a nearby island. The vessel, still
carrying 68,000 tonnes of coal, had been grinding across a shoal,
creating plumes of coral dust in the water.

"We're actually not
out of the woods on this yet," Queensland state transport minister
Rachel Nolan told ABC. "Until this ship is repaired and out of the
Great Barrier Reef, none of us will really rest easy," she said.

Australia's
government has said the ship was on an illegal route through the giant
reef and said it would be "throwing the book" at those responsible.

Officials
have promised to investigate allegations that ships have been taking
short-cuts through the giant reef, which sprawls along 1,800 miles of
coast and is a major tourist attraction.

On Monday, three crew
members from another large carrier appeared in court on charges of
entering a restricted part of the reef without permission, and were
bailed to reappear on Friday.

Nolan said authorities may
consider extending a ship-tracking system which controls vessels moving
around other parts of the reef.

"This though wasn't really regarded as a complicated area in navigational terms," she said in reference to the Shen Neng 1.

"It
does seem to be pretty extraordinary that this ship crashed into the
reef near Gladstone but having said that, we will need to have a look
at how we will prevent that in future."

Conservationists say
the incidents highlight the risk to Australia's environment posed by
rocketing resources exports to Asia, which are fuelling a strong
recovery from the global financial crisis.

The reef, which is
visible from space and is one of the world's foremost ecological
treasures, has already come under pressure from rising sea temperatures
and pollution.

 

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