Australia will examine ship routes and the piloting of vessels as part of investigations into the grounding of the Shen Neng 1 coal carrier on the Great Barrier Reef, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said. Bureau officials will investigate how the ship managed crew fatigue as well as the measures in place to protect the World- Heritage listed reef, including traffic services and pilot route guidelines, according to a report released in Canberra today.
The inquiry may lead to new recommendations about the types of vessels and the routes they may use through the area as well as additional rules for marine pilots, the Bureau’s Chief Executive Officer Martin Dolan told reporters in Canberra. The Shen Neng 1, carrying 68,000 metric tons of coal and 975 tons of fuel oil, slammed into a sandbank while on its way to China from the Queensland port of Gladstone. It left a scar on the reef about 3 kilometers long (1.9 miles) and 250 meters wide, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority chief scientist Dave Wachenseld told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
“We found areas of up to 20 to 40 meters across where the top of the shoal has been completely pulverized, so all of the plants and animals have been killed,” he said. The vessel made a change to its intended route, agreed by authorities, and “had no reason not to take that course,” Dolan said. The route is a “known passage” used by about a third of vessels travelling from Gladstone and had “no previous history of groundings.”
The Australian Federal Police arrested and charged two men from the vessel yesterday.
Jichang Wang, 47, faced Gladstone Magistrates Court today charged with being the master of a vessel that caused damage. The chief officer Xuegang Wang, 44, also appeared for being in charge of a vessel which caused damage and aggravation that conduct had the potential to result in serious harm to marine park environment. Both were bailed to reappear on June 9, e- mailed court documents show. “It will be alleged in court that the men were the master and chief officer-on-watch of the vessel that caused damage to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park,” the AFP said in a statement.