Monday, April 5, 2010

Chinese Oil Spill in Environmentally Sensitive Area

The Chinese vessel Shen Neng 1 ran aground on Douglas Shoal, east of Rockhampton, near Great Keppel Island on Saturday.

It is estimated that damage to the ship's hull and fuel tanks has caused a narrow spill of three to four tonnes of fuel about three kilometres in length and 100 metres wide.

Salvage workers will deliver an initial report today about the condition and future of the ship.

Maritime Safety Queensland spokesman Mark Strong says they have sprayed the spill with chemical dispersants and may do so again today.

"The first run seemed to lead to an improvement in the oil clean-up. It certainly dispersed some of the oil that was there," he said.

"It is a heavy fuel oil and as such, is more resistant than normal to chemical dispersants, but the best time to attempt to disperse oil with chemical dispersant is in the first 24 hours."

He says the coal ship must have been travelling well off course when it became stuck in a protected reef.

Mr Strong says a local navigator had been on the ship to guide it into open water but left before the accident occurred.

"The area is an environmentally sensitive area and... all shipping is banned from using that environmentally sensitive area," he said.

"As a result, the vessel was significantly off the course that it should have been on."

Yesterday, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said it was not known why the ship was is in a restricted part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

But Mr Strong says it could have been much worse.

"This spill certainly is not as bad as it could initially have been," he said.

"We still have only a small amount of fuel in the water.

"It is fuel from the vessel itself and that's why we're taking every precaution before a decision is made on how the vessel may be salvaged."


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