Tag Archives: Great Barrier Reef

SHIPPING: Cargo ships fail to report their position, risk disaster on Great Barrier Reef

HUNDREDS of ships have been caught breaking laws intended to prevent an environmental disaster in the Great Barrier Reef.

About one ship every two days is failing to report its position before entering the Reef, raising fears foreign crews with limited knowledge of Australian maritime law are ignoring basic rules to safeguard against an oil spill in the marine park.

Ships of 50m or more and all oil tankers must report their positions before entering the reef so their journey through its waters can be automatically tracked and a computer-generated warning issued should they stray off course.

Most of the 250 cases of ships breaching reporting laws in the past 18 months were in a section of reef where new rules were introduced following the 2010 grounding of bulk carrier Shen Neng 1.

The Chinese carrier was loaded with 65,000 tonnes of coal when it ran aground on Douglas Shoal 80km north of Rockhampton, gouging a 3km-long scar in the reef and spilling tonnes of oil.

Mandatory reporting and vessel tracking was extended to the southern border of the reef after the incident.

Australian Reef Pilots chief executive Simon Meyjes said it was another reason for mandatory pilotage of ships through the whole of the marine park.

“About two-thirds the length of the marine park does not require a pilot onboard the ship,” he said.

“A lot of ships arrive in Australia with a foreign crew with no local knowledge.

“If they are failing to do that (report) it makes the job of alerting them to a potential risk that much more difficult.”

Failing to report a position does not mean a ship has strayed from designated shipping lanes or rat run through the reef.

But it makes it harder for officials to program a ship’s intended route so a warning can be generated should it steam into danger.

Townsville-based Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait Vessel Traffic Service manager Mick Bishop said vessels were still closely monitored by staff using satellite-tracking.

Two staff a shift monitor 40-50 ships in the reef at any one time.

“The most important thing is that they report the route they intend to follow,” Mr Bishop said of the reporting rules.

“Once they do that we can then electronically program that into the VTS (vessel tracking service) and we would then get alerted if there was any deviation from that route that they hadn’t given us prior notification of.

“The reason (for failing to notify staff) would be they were unaware of the requirement to report. I don’t think we have people trying to sneak in.”

Source: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/national/cargo-ships-risk-disaster-on-great-barrier-reef-by-failing-to-report-their-position/story-fndo45r1-1226419835047



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MARITIME | Grounding on the Great Barrier Reef caused by fatigue and ineffective monitoring

From the Australian Transport Safety Bureau | 2011.04.14

At 1705 on 3 April 2010, the Chinese registered bulk carrier Shen Neng 1 grounded on Douglas Shoal, about 50 miles north of the entrance to the port of Gladstone, Queensland. The ship’s hull was seriously damaged by the grounding, with the engine room and six water ballast and fuel oil tanks being breached, resulting in a small amount of pollution.

The ATSB investigation found that the grounding occurred because the chief mate did not alter the ship’s course at the designated course alteration position. His monitoring of the ship’s position was ineffective and his actions were affected by fatigue.

The ATSB identified four safety issues during the investigation:

  1. There was no effective fatigue management system in place to ensure that the bridge watchkeepers were fit to stand a navigational watch after they had supervised the loading of a cargo of coal in Gladstone;
  2. There was insufficient guidance in relation to the proper use of passage plans, including electronic route plans, in the ship’s safety management system;
  3. There were no visual cues to warn either the chief mate or the seaman on lookout duty, as to the underwater dangers directly ahead of the ship; and
  4. At the time of the grounding, the protections afforded by the requirement for compulsory pilotage and active monitoring of ships by REEFVTS, were not in place in the sea area off Gladstone.

The ATSB has issued two safety recommendations to Shen Neng 1‘s management company regarding the safety issues associated with fatigue management and passage planning and acknowledges the safety action taken by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority in relation to the extension of REEFVTS coverage to include the waters off Gladstone.

Read more about it at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-13076231?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

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SHEN NENG 1 | Report praises response, considers future oil spills ‘inevitable’

Originally published in Tradewinds, 2010/10/06

“Significant environmental damage” from the grounding of a Chinese bulk carrier on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef earlier this year was prevented by an “immediate, extensive and effective” response.

Oil spills are, however, “inevitable” off the country’s coast, an independent report into the April grounding of the 70,200-dwt Shen Neng 1 (built 1993) found.

The China-flagged panamax was fully laden with coal when it grounded on Douglas Shoal off Queensland on 3 April. Between three and four tons of heavy fuel oil were spilled before the ship was refloated nine days later.

However, the situation could have been far worse were it not for the fact that “Queensland was well prepared” for the situation following an incident involving the 3,700-dwt Pacific Adventurer (now-Pacific Mariner, built 1991) off the state a year earlier.

The Shen Neng 1 grounding “could have caused significant environmental damage” resulting in 975 tons of heavy fuel oil and some 65,000 tons of coal being spilled, the report written by Graham Miller read.

“Although the vessel’s crew were in shock and initial reports from the vessel were unclear, early situational awareness was developed by the responding agencies,” it read.

However, “the operations achieved a positive outcome as a direct result of the immediate, extensive and effective incident response” which Miller also termed “well-resourced and well executed”.

The report pointed to the reasonably favourable location of the casualty site close to the port of Gladstone while weather conditions during the casualty were “generally favourable”.

The report was not designed to study the causes of the grounding but issued a warning to agencies that it was unlikely to be the last such incident in the state’s waters.

The incident, it wrote, “highlights the vulnerability of Queensland’s coastline to a significant oil spill incident. Increased shipping movements and the continued likelihood of severe climactic events suggests that the threat of marine oil spills will remain and that future oil spills are inevitable.”

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YEAR OF THE SEAFARER | Looking forward to a golden age in pilotage

Helen Kelly | LLOYD’S LIST

STEVE Pelecanos jokes that he only became a pilot to enjoy the ‘retirement-like’ lifestyle.

In 1970s Australia, with a young family to support, the shore-based vocation must have seemed halcyon compared with its more capricious ocean-going alternative. But a quiet life was not to be for this outspoken Queenslander with a fire in his belly in an industry in need dire of modernisation. “Our obligation as a pilot is to look forward,” he says. “Unfortunately, there are many people in shipping that gaze in the rear view mirror and look backwards to a ‘golden age’ that is past.”

His most recent campaign is to fix the broken system of pilotage on the Great Barrier Reef. It is a system inherited from a previous federal government, which believed greater competition between pilots would drive costs down at some of Australia’s biggest trading ports. Continue reading


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SAFETY | No Reef pilot, no Reef passage

Andrew Jeremijenko – LLOYD’S LIST

THE Chinese coal ship Shen Neng 1 ran aground on Douglas Shoal on April 3. If ships passing through the Great Barrier Reef were required to have a compulsory pilot for a cost of less than $10,000 this accident could have been prevented.

Continue reading


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Mimosa officers convicted of taking illegal shortcut

BIG FINES were imposed today on three senior officers convicted of sailing a Japanese-controlled bulker on an illegal shortcut through the Great Barrier Reef.

Gang Chun Han, 63, the South Korean master of the Panamanian-flag, 53,556dwt Mimosa; the Vietnamese chief officer, Tran Tan Thanh, 32; and second officer Nguyen Van Sang, 26, also from Vietnam, were each fined A$70,000 ($65,330).

They pleaded guilty in Townsville Magistrates Court to breaching the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act. Prosecutor Aaron Guilfoyle told the court the bulker entered the park on 4 April via an unauthorised route at Flinders Passage, off the north Queensland coast.

The course took Mimosa through clearly marked no-go zones. Guilfoyle said the ship had travelled 109 n-miles (202km) on the course to save time and fuel and to jump the loading queue at Abbot Point Coal Terminal.

“The ship passed through sensitive habitats and hazards to navigation, and so doing, posed threats of pollution and damage,” he said.

Magistrate Scott Luxton said there was no doubt that the route would have been “commercially advantageous” to the ship’s owner and that the officers had shown blatant disregard for the law.

“One cannot ignore the physical damage which could have been caused to the reef and the detrimental impact upon those who rely on the reef for their income,” Luxton said.


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GROUNDING ON THE REEF | Reef safety in perspective

From Lloyd’s List
THE grounding of the Shen Neng 1 has become a metaphor for many things, including: the developing world and its hunger for commodities; the new dominance of China in world trade; our global disregard for natural resources in the face of economic development; and the new global capitalism versus the need to preserve our world.

The common thread running through all of this is China and the implicit demands it is placing on nations that benefit from trading with it. But while these broad-brush ideas are satisfying, sometimes we neglect the details, where the Devil resides.

Take the name Cosco, which has appeared in almost all the dispatches about the Shen Neng 1 since it was grounded 10 days ago. The ship is owned by Shenzhen Energy Transport. Cosco’s only affiliation is part ownership in the company that manages the vessel — that is, not an owner at all.

But the symbolic neatness of having Cosco be the erring party was too sweet. Cosco, a state-owned giant, is a corollary for Chinese shipping power. Journalists had time to sort out the details, but why bother with inconvenient fact when hamfisted metaphor will do?

A little perspective is needed, too, on the charges of recklessness in navigation, which are still under investigation. Whatever the outcome, it was one vessel in one particular circumstance, not a symbol of universal disregard or imperilment by China — which has since apologised — of a natural wonder.

Australia, laudably, understands the value and beauty of the Great Barrier Reef, and its citizens treasure this resource. But the reef itself has long been vulnerable to problems hampering pilotage. The piloting system was described by Australasian Marine Pilots Institute president Peter Liley as a flawed model.

The model was introduced in 1993 during a time, according to Capt Liley, “when economic rationalism was in its heyday and competition was thought to be a panacea to all our ills”. But the competitive structure that evolved does not lend itself to transparency, supervision or control, nor does it promote a culture of safety.

Truly protecting the reef will involve a considered look at all the problems, and less reliance on easy finger pointing.


I could not agree more. It was time someone came forward and said, “do not feed the hype, please.”

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