Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Chinese Shipping Company Faces Sanctions After Great Barrier Reef Pollution Incident

Pilots May Become Mandatory in 'Coal Alley'
Shipping News Feature

AUSTRALIA – Saturday’s incident off the Great Barrier Reef have caused the Green party, amongst others, to call for a review of transit procedures for the vast numbers of freight vessels shipping through the area known as “Coal Alley” off the Queensland coastline. The COSCO vessel “Shen Neng 1”, reportedly laden with 65,000 tonnes of coal for China, struck the reef on Saturday losing at least two tonnes of oil in the process.

There are now vociferous calls to make it compulsory to carry a recognised local pilot when travelling the route after claims that the vessel had strayed fifteen kilometres off the shipping lane when she hit the Douglas Shoals on her way from Gladstone. The ship is now stranded on the reef some forty or so miles off Keppel Island and tugs apparently failed during initial efforts trying to float her off. The “Shen Neng 1” is carrying up to 1000 tonnes of fuel oil and the concern is that she will break up in the effort to free her. Now attempts will be made today to pump off the fuel from the ship and a decision taken as to whether it is practical and possible to offload her cargo before towing her off the reef.

Unless they can prove that navigational instructions provided by the authorities were incorrect it would seem that COSCO will bear the full brunt of the cost of the clean up plus the severe penalties which are likely to be imposed. Aircraft dropping chemical dispersants have been used to try to contain the slicks which have spread from the stricken vessel. She is reported to have suffered serious damage to her steering gear and the hull has been breached in the vicinity of the engine room.

A full investigation into the incident will, as usual in such cases, be conducted by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.