Reef recovery may take 20 years after coal ship
By Joel Philp and Tara Egan
Marine experts say damage from the Chinese oil tanker running aground on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef could be far worse that first thought.
The physical impact of the ship, the Shen Neng 1, ploughing into the reef on April 4 has caused extensive coral damage that may take 20 years to repair, according to Capricorn Conservation Council spokesman, Ian Herbert.
He said the vessel was going at full speed and travelled several kilometres along the sea bed before it came to rest.
“Those first video vision shots that people saw last East Sunday and Monday of that big slick of white floating on the surface, that was not oil, that was shredded coral,” Mr Herbert said.
“That really shows the extent to which the ship has crunched the coral and its formed a white powder and its floating on the sea.”
Listen to this story on the Wire:
The Shen Neng 1 came to rest in Douglas Shoal, just east of Great Keppel Island, leaking a small amount of oil that authorities are still monitoring.
Queensland reporter Marlina Whop said the Australian Institute of Marine Science will closely examine the World Heritage site.
“It will send its team of divers who are specialised in to looking at the reef, and who have been studying this for a number of years,” Ms Whop said.
“So those experts have been called in and this is really day by day turning into a large operation.”
It is still unclear as to whether the shipping company, Shenzhen Energy Transportation, will pay the full cost of the clean up.
Ian Herbert said that from past incidents, chances of the Queensland government receiving full payment from the shipping company are unlikely.
“We had a much bigger oil spill bigger that this a year ago off the east coast of Brisbane where a large quantity of oil washed up on the shores of Moreton Island and the state government is still out off pocket,” Mr Herbert said.
“There’s some gentleman’s agreement with these insurance companies that their viability is capped to $20 million and they don’t pay any more than that which I think that’s a very sad state of affairs.”
The Capricorn Conservation Council is pushing the federal government for policy reforms regarding shipping surveillance in Australian Shores.
Mr Herbert added that laws are not always sufficient in preventing these types of incidents.
“It’s all very well and good for the premier to say ‘look, if only they obeyed the rules this wouldn’t happen’, but if only all road users obeyed the rules, we would have no road toll, would we.”