Coal offloaded from stranded reef ship

By AG Staff with AAP 13 May 2010
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Salvage crews are offloading coal from a ship that ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef last month.

SALVAGE CREWS HAVE begun to offload coal from a damaged ship that ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef last month. About 19,000 tonnes of coal will be removed from the Chinese-registered Shen Neng 1 over the next three weeks, so that it can be towed back to China.

Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) says a smaller bulk carrier, the Clipper Mistral, docked beside the Shen Neng 1 on Wednesday, and work has begun to offload a third of the carrier’s coal.

Patrick Quirk general manager of  Maritime Safety Queensland says extensive environmental protection measures are in place: “Water sprays are being used to suppress any coal dust which may be stirred up by the lighter’s grab buckets, which are also specially designed to reduce spillage.”

Environmental safety measures

“We will also have skilled observers watching the transfer process for any sign of spillage and they can call an immediate halt to the operation if they have any concerns,” Patrick says.

Daily flights over the site are also scheduled to report any pollution risks, and two MSQ vessels and a national parks vessel are stationed close by. A second coal lighter is docked at Gladstone and will take over offloading duties when the Clipper Mistral is full, most likely this weekend.

The ship ran aground on the reef, off the coast of Rockhampton, on 3
April, causing extensive damage to the reef at Douglas Shoal. It was
refloated on 12 April and towed to waters off Gladstone before being
moved south to calmer waters off Hervey Bay on Tuesday for the salvage

Refuge for stricken ships?

Meanwhile, Greenpeace is calling on the state government to guarantee that Hervey Bay, or any other marine park, won’t be used as a refuge for stricken ships. Spokeswoman Keiller MacDuff said the ship was anchored within the Great Sandy Marine Park, home to dolphins, dugongs and whales.

“The community is concerned that the Shen Neng 1 has set a precedent, that the sheltered waters off Hervey Bay will become the default option for every ailing ship,” she says. “There is a massive expansion of coal exports underway and we’re concerned as more ships pass through our marine parks, there’s an increased risk of another disaster…we don’t want to become a dumping ground”

A community meeting was held in Hervey Bay on Wednesday night, with residents planning to take to the streets to get their message across