MV Shen Neng 1 aground, April 2010
The Associated Press
The Australian government told a court Tuesday that it was seeking at least 120 million Australian dollars ($90 million) from the owners of a Chinese coal ship that damaged part of the Great Barrier Reef.
Shenzhen Energy Transport was fighting the clean-up bill in the Australian Federal Court on Tuesday for Douglas Shoal, which was damaged when the Shen Neng 1 went off course and grounded in April 2010.
The Federal Court heard that the crash site was contaminated with hundreds of kilograms (pounds) of paint particles tainted with the highly-toxic, anti-fouling agent tributyltin.
Tributyltin slows the growth of aquatic organisms on ship hulls, and marine biologists say the particles need to be removed from the 40-hectare (100-acre) crash site to allow the area to recover.
The carrier’s owner says the reef is self-healing and the company should not have to pay for a clean-up that was not needed.
It also disputes the testing methods that led to the detection of tributyltin in the area.
Shenzhen Energy Transport’s maritime insurer, London P&I Club, said in a statement the Australian government’s estimated costs of fixing the reef were unrealistic.
Environmentals who spoke to Peace and Freedom about the Great Barrier Reef damage caused by MV Shen Neng 1 said the damage was “inestimable.”
Great Barrier Reef — Douglas Shoals area of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, damaged by the Chinese bulk coal-carrying ship Sheng Neng 1. Photo by Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, HO
Oil from a huge Chinese ship which grounded in the Great Barrier Reef has hit a world-renowned nature sanctuary, officials said yesterday, raising fears for seabirds and baby turtles now hatching there.
Clean-up crews and environmental experts were helicoptered to North West Island, a breeding site for hundreds of thousands of seabirds and turtles, where clumps of oil have fouled about one kilometre of beach.
The 230-metre Shen Neng 1 leaked about two tonnes of oil after blundering into the reef on April 3, angering officials who have promised stiff punishment. The giant coal-carrier was refloated and towed away.
“It hasn’t come ashore in large globules or carpets,” Patrick Quirk, general manager of Marine Safety Queensland, told public broadcaster ABC.
“Our advice from the rangers on the island is that it’s at the top of the tide line in patches, and that gives us some comfort.
“But we need to get our specialist beach clean-up experts and they’ll report to us immediately what is there and if needed we’ll fly out more people to the island.”
Queensland’s state transport minister Rachel Nolan said initial reports described only a “very small amount” of oil. However, Environment Protection Minister Peter Garrett feared oil may also have hit other islands.
“I’m certainly very concerned that some of the neighbouring islands there, like Tryon Island, might have also been contaminated,” he told the ABC.
Conservationists describe North West Island as a globally important nesting site for seabirds and green and loggerhead turtles, which are currently hatching and travelling down the beach.
Darren Kindleysides, director of the Australian Marine Conservation Society, said even small amounts of oil can affect wildlife.
“We’re not talking about a supertanker going aground and releasing tonnes and tonnes and tonnes of oil,” he said.
“But we are talking about oil reaching a coral key which is globally important for seabird breeding and the nesting of green and loggerhead turtles.
Green turtle (Chelonia mydas)
“Unfortunately this is the time of year we have turtle hatchlings going down the beach … so that is a real concern.”
Australian officials have expressed anger after the Shen Neng 1 blundered into part of the world heritage-listed reef at full speed, accusing the crew of taking an illegal route.
About two tonnes of oil spilled out of the giant ship when it rammed into Douglas Shoal, creating a three-kilometre slick.
The vessel also carved a kilometres-long gouge in the delicate coral reef which experts say could take 20 years to recover.
Officials are probing claims ships ferrying Australia’s booming resources exports to Asia are taking short-cuts through the world’s biggest coral reef, which is already under pressure from rising sea temperatures and pollution.
Scar track left by the Shen Neng 1 in 2010 across the Douglas Shoal
China dredger Tian Jing Hao. Dozens of dredges like this have been and are being used in China’s environmental rape of the South China Sea and island building.
Reef debris after destruction by a Chinese super dredge
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Commentary: How a marine-protected area in the South China Sea is crucial for peace (Includes Obama creates largest ocean reserve, takes heat for new federal decrees)
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Chinese coast guard ship
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China’s Military Take-Over of the South China Sea — The Most Successful Military Invasion “Without Firing a Shot” in Modern Times — Sun Tzu Would Be Proud — A Page From Hitler’s Lebensraum or “Living Space”?
Tags: Australia, Australian Federal Court, Australian government, Australian Marine Conservation Society, China, China’s Environmental Damage To The Sea, Chinese coal ship, Douglas Shoal, ecosystems, environment protection, environmental, fisheries, food security, Great Barrier Reef, green turtles, loggerhead turtles, marine biologists say the particles need to be removed, marine protected area, Marine Safety Queensland, MV Shen Neng 1, nature sanctuary, overfishing, paint particles, pollution, seabirds, Shen Neng 1, Shenzhen Energy Transport, South China Sea, Toxic, tributyltin, Tryon Island, turtles, water pollution, wildlife