April 13th, 2010
01:02 PM ET

Chairman: Ship's paint brings instant death to Great Barrier Reef

The Shen Neng 1 ran across a coral reef causing toxic paint to scrape off, which has killed parts of the coral almost immediately.

The Chinese coal ship that ran on to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef last week has damaged a two-mile (three kilometer) stretch of the World Heritage Area that could take years to repair, the chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority said Tuesday.

Chairman Russell Reichelt told CNN affiliate ABC News in Australia that toxic anti-fouling paint had been scraped off the Shen Neng 1 as it ran across the coral reef. The paint contains biocides that prevent barnacles and other marine organisms from attaching to the hulls of ships.

"The paint that's been scraped off onto the reef is killing corals in its vicinity or they're showing signs of almost immediate mortality from being close to the anti-fouling," Reichelt told ABC News.

Reichelt said repairing the damage left by the Shen Neng 1 will likely be largest operation ever undertaken on the reef, a World Heritage Area.

Australian authorities have said the coal carrier was more than 17 miles off course when it ran aground on Douglas Shoal on April 4. The ship was refloated Tuesday and towed to a safe anchorage off the reef.

The ship leaked some oil when it hit the reef, but authorities said dispersants used had kept damage from any oil slick to a minimum.

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Filed under: Australia • World
soundoff (206 Responses)
  1. tony

    It was an accident, Pick up the pieces and move on, This eye for and eye is going the leave the whole world blind.

    April 13, 2010 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mallory Brown

    Isn't it time to start thinking of buying less from China? We can tell the Chinese that we don't approve of how they treat nature and the environment by being much more selective about what we buy from them. Just say no to Chinese products.

    April 14, 2010 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
  3. chris

    What many people don't understand is that almost all ships use this same bottom paint which inhibits growth of alge and barnacles. It is just a fact that less growth means more speed and less drag saving time and fuel. The same paint is used on every buoy that is maintained by the Coast Guard. I am in no way defending the shipping company, the crew or the Chinese government just stating the facts. It could of been any vessel sailing under any flag.

    April 14, 2010 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |

    In the old times, almost all anti- fouling paints on the bottom of boats/ ships were lead based. Because of its extreme toxicity they worked very well. When some well meaning Greenies pointed to the fact that we are poisoning the oceans with lead, laws were passed in many nations to outlaw lead paints and make them copper based. But here comes the big point were the initially well meaning Greenies including Green Peace and all governments have utterly failed.
    All private boat and yacht owners were forced to use almost useless copper based anti-fouling paints. However, all Navies , Merchant Ships, Oil tankers and Freighters were allowed to carry this deadly poison into all corners of our oceans. By square meters of painted surface this is by far the largest group. Media purposely reports these paints as "biocides". Its poisonous lead everyone and if you scrape 50 kg off the bottom of these freighters by running them aground by incapable captains, then the damage will be much more than the loss of a little patch of coral in the impact zone. We are all digging our own graves everywhere with wide open eyes for nothing else than pretty printed paper with numbers on it.

    April 14, 2010 at 12:23 am | Report abuse |
  5. Evan Smith

    *Nicholas Scaife – the official language of the PRC is Mandarin, not Cantonese, and the company should be fined, not the Chinese Government. That is unless you think we should quit holding companies responsible and instead make governments and tax payers responsible for company errors.

    April 14, 2010 at 12:44 am | Report abuse |
  6. Larry

    "...It's all about the dollar..."

    Uh, China uses the Renminbi or more commonly yuan.

    Regarding making China pay for the damage, good luck.

    But don't blame it on China. Everyone in the world looks the other way and continues to buy "Made in China" in spite of the child labor, pollution, contaminated products (baby food, pet food, lead in toys, etc), and damage to the environment. The only thing that matters to the buyer is getting a cheap product. We have only ourselves to blame.

    April 14, 2010 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |
  7. Bill

    It is time to start rebuilding the industrial infrastructure of the USA. This is what you get when you allow wholesale offshoring of industries and jobs to a country that does not care even about it's own people, much less anyone else.

    Make no mistake: this is the doing of the free marketeers and their "save a dollar at any cost" mentality. It's easy to turn your back on your neighbor when you live in seclusion in your gated community. This is not "Altas Shrugged", because none of these maggots ever created or invented anything. The time will come soon when these captains of industry, these maggots that claim all of the world for themselves, will be dragged into the streets, kicking and screaming for their lives.

    The world created in their absence will be just as ugly and uncaring, because we will ignore the small time abusers of humanity, thinking that we are doing a service. Instead, we will have a warlord culture, where many tin gods will reign over small, loosely organized territories.

    Regardless, we will still have a world of fear, hatred and confusion.

    Mankind is not evolving, but devolving.

    April 14, 2010 at 2:00 am | Report abuse |
  8. Ande

    It strikes me odd that China would have all of these environmental problems. Can't remember where I read about it, but it seemed like more their religion to make sure the water was clean. Balance. Water being more like the lifeblood. It makes me wonder if they are industrializing too fast to meet even their own ethical standards. Not enough laws on the books to protect them from industrialization yet?

    April 14, 2010 at 2:27 am | Report abuse |

    Chinese have no value for World heritage site like Australian barrier reef. They can even sell there own country for money.

    April 14, 2010 at 2:35 am | Report abuse |
  10. ChicagoGrad

    Thankfully this wasn't any worse, and it sounds like the reef should recover in a few years. Of course the owners of the ship should pay the costs to clean up this mess, and if they can't pay it, the Chinese government should do it. I think there should also be fines for the company. They also need to require pilots to be on the ships when sailing through the area around the barrier reef. This should never happen again!

    April 14, 2010 at 2:37 am | Report abuse |
  11. A Ship Captain

    Everyone talks about it being about the money – it is; your money. If we are willing to pay higher utility bills, and higher costs for everything we buy, then we can have better trained crews, safer ships, cleaner factories less environmental damage. But you have to vote with your pocketbook. Quit buying Chinese goods until they change their standards, and eventually, they will. It's all about how you buy....

    April 14, 2010 at 3:19 am | Report abuse |
  12. Erin

    If I were the Australian government and it was within my rights, I'd impound the ship and incarcerate the captain until the cleanup had taken place. I'd then sell as much of the cargo as necessary – the ship too, if required – to pay for the costs, and ask the Chinese government to foot the bill for the rest. I'm sure it would spark outrage by the Chinese, but I think others would think twice about being so blatantly disregardful of protected heritage sites and oblivious to environmental damage. Too bad there isn't an efficient World Court that has global jurisdiction in these types of matters.

    April 14, 2010 at 4:35 am | Report abuse |
  13. dadfa

    Sure fine the company and maybe even stop selling them our coal

    April 14, 2010 at 5:50 am | Report abuse |
  14. George


    TBT (poison-based anti fouling) has been banned for a number of years now by international maritime law. Hulls are now painted with Self-Polishing paints that are very slippery and gradually dissolve, causing attached lifeforms to fall off WITHOUT poisoning them. They are not as effective, but they are safe for the ecosystem to prevent poisons being built in the food-chain.

    The implications of a grounding are severe enough, without dramatising the situation for effect.

    CNN can easily verify this independently. I work in the industry and if more information is needed I am happy to assist.

    April 14, 2010 at 6:26 am | Report abuse |
  15. Rahul

    The Chinese are getting way too big for their boots. They need to be held accountable and should not be allowed to go scot-free.
    There is a long litany of grievances the world community has against the Chinese and we should not set another precedence.

    April 14, 2010 at 8:11 am | Report abuse |
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