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Officials fear ship breaking apart on Barrier Reef

Officials fear ship breaking apart on Barrier Reef

A coal-carrying ship that ran aground and was leaking oil on Australia's Great Barrier Reef was in danger of breaking apart, officials said Sunday.
The Chinese coal carrier Shen Neng 1 ran aground late Saturday on Douglas Shoals, a favorite pristine haunt for recreational fishing east of the Great Keppel Island tourist resort. It's off the coast of Queensland state in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park off northeast Australia.
State Premier Anna Bligh said the carrier was in danger of breaking apart and a police launch was standing by to evacuate the 23 crew if necessary.
The ship hit the reef at full speed, 9 miles (15 kilometers) outside the shipping lane, she said.
Patches of oil were seen near the stricken ship early Sunday, but Maritime Safety Queensland reported no major loss from the 1,000 U.S. tons (950 metric tons) of oil on board.
"We are now very worried we might see further oil discharged from this ship," Bligh told reporters.
Maritime Safety Queensland general manager Patrick Quirk said the vessel was badly damaged on its port side.
"At one stage last night, we thought the ship was close to breaking up," he told reporters. "We are still very concerned about the ship.
"It is in danger of actually breaking a number of its main structures and breaking into a number of parts," he added.
Authorities fear an oil spill would cause environmental damage to the world's largest coral reef, listed as a World Heritage site for its environmental value.
Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett said authorities had been working through the night to determine what risks the ship posed to the environment.
A chemical that was not expected to have a lasting environmental impact would be sprayed on the oil to disperse it, Garrett said.
"The government is very conscious of the importance of the Great Barrier Reef environment and ensuring that impacts on its ecology are effectively managed," Garrett said in a statement.
The vessel was carrying about 72,000 U.S. tons (65,000 metric tons) of coal to China and ran aground within hours of leaving the Queensland port of Gladstone.
Conservationists have expressed outrage that bulk carriers can travel through the reef without a marine pilot with local expertise.


Updated : 2020-12-02 03:04 GMT+08:00