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. Bonesman322

    If you think sailing within two miles of the Great Barrier Reef is unnecessarily risky, try sailing into just about every port in the world.

    Take Port Everglades, Florida, for example. I used to pull in their regularly aboard the M/V Philadelphia carrying some of the most toxic substances known to man (outside chemical warfare agents). There's about 200 feet clearance between the ship itself and the rocks on the shoreline.

    Or take the Houston Ship channel, as another example. Pilots play a game called "Texas Chicken," where two ships carrying petroleum (or whatever) approach one another on reciprocal coarse, and at the very last moment when you think they'll collide, both pilots order "Right 10," meaning turn the rudder 10 degrees to starboard, followed by "Left Ten," which means turn the rudder 10 degrees to port, and the ships miss one another by less than 50 feet. It's amazing and terrifying at the same time.

    It's just a matter of time before we have another Exxon Valdez spill. Get ready. And remember: It was totally preventable. The shipping companies just didn't want to pay for quality sailors with SUP, and chose to put you at risk by signing labor agreements with alternative unions (if you can even call them unions).

    April 14, 2010 at 8:14 am | Report abuse |
  2. SFC DAN

    It's a question of balance. After all, are we all not also on a damaged ship?

    April 14, 2010 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
  3. Green Dean

    Boycott Chinese products of course! We should have been boycotting their products long ago anyway as they could care less about living wages, worker's rights, human rights, animal rights and our ecosystem.

    Also the people of the world should not travel there to China for five years. If the world's people did not travel to China for an extended period, perhaps the Chinese government might consider respecting our planet and the rights of it's inhabitants.

    The captain of the ship should have been arrested by the Australian government and placed on trial for environmental terrorism.

    The Chinese government should also cover all costs of the restoration of the Great Barrier Reef.

    Deano LeCarre – Minneapolis Minnesota.

    April 14, 2010 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
  4. Steve

    Thank you George for a voice of sanity. Most of what i have read here says "string them up"
    It would be better to solve the the problem than to blame everyone involved. There's usually a simple solution that is generally overlooked because it's so simple. We are polluting ourselves and every other creature out of existence. As a species we suck.

    April 14, 2010 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
  5. Stamos

    I will confirm what George says. TBT antifouling paints are based on tin and the surface gradually ablates to present a fresh surface as the ship sails along.
    I quote a worst case scenario as there are even more modern paints available but we don't know that these were used.
    The paint is no more or less poisonous than Tin or Copper.
    When the ship stops, even for a couple of weeks, the ablation stops and *no* tin is released from the matrix.
    NO more damage will be done to an area greater than around a few inches from the paint scrapings and that will soon stop completely.
    Based on actual experiences, in a few months you will be able to see marine growths and ultimately even coral growing on top of the paint scrapings.
    Go to anywhere where ships are tied up for weeks or months and you will see barnacles and green weed growing on top of these paints because the ships are stationary.

    Oil pollution is vastly more damaging and significant and yes, the ship had no business at all being where it was.

    I hope some ignorant loudmouths are feeling a bit foolish now.

    April 14, 2010 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
  6. *sigh*

    i wounder what was so toxic in the paint it caused the reef 2 die instantly...?

    April 14, 2010 at 9:02 am | Report abuse |
  7. Yeti Sack

    Captain should get the death penalty for all the coral lives he took.

    April 14, 2010 at 9:08 am | Report abuse |
  8. Network

    Its always someone elses fault.....blame everyone else. We as a species should manup to our bonehead moves. There has got to be a non toxic paint that will do the same job...

    April 14, 2010 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
  9. Leah Serenee

    i agree, and wondering what was so toxic in the paint that caused the reef to die instantly? Is it because it's their cheapy materials and don't care about what it will cause in the environment!

    April 14, 2010 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
  10. ELGERBOER

    This is a further example of Chinese violating any rule for their convenience

    Here, because they wanted to take a shortcut.

    The world must decide to deal with this country in a adequate harsh form

    April 14, 2010 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
  11. Uncle Sam

    Wow – so much venom and hatred against China for a small accident compared to Exxon Valdez disaster in which Exxon got away scot-free.

    I assume most of the posters here are from US, the same country that performed 1054 nuclear tests, including 331 open-air blasts and a lot of them in South Pacific atolls that had people living there. US has not paid a dime compensating the native people of these atolls who are displaced forever. Read about "Crossroads Tests", and you tell me how much permanent damage these underwater nuclear explosions by Americans have caused.

    What about US's use of Agent Orange in Vietnam, affecting 4.8 million people, causing half million deaths and disabilities, and another half million babies born with birth defects? US has not paid a dime to compensate the Vietnamese people for it.

    Americans should think for a minute before casting stones at other countries.

    April 14, 2010 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
  12. chesney19860824

    Some of the people commenting here cannot even spell the simple words. Why don't you just slow down and use spell check.

    April 14, 2010 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
  13. Stephen

    Why can't these vessels be traffic controlled like the airways? GPS tells you to turn around you missed your turn....17 miles off course, cmon!

    April 14, 2010 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
  14. DomuzAvci

    I would imagine that there is a reason for this crash or someone to blame. I don't think people need to be jumping on China as they are out of the picture on this issue. I would imagine the shipping company will be responsible for the damage and the people at fault will be punished accordingly. Thank god it wasn't a US ship this time around, think of all the anti America statements that would be going around, such as the Big Satan and such.

    April 14, 2010 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
  15. Bill Angus

    This damage reported here seems minimal - some paint got scraped off a hull. Disaster was totally avoided - which is awesome. Just imagine if that ship was a big oil tanker, grounded during a goodish sized storm that lasted for a few weeks. The damage could've covered hundreds and hundreds of miles. I'd like to see Aus. and North Amerca fund some Industrial Organization Psychology studies to examine how people get to be in command of large ships in the "merchant marine". Systems of HR T & D seem to discourage smart people sometimes. High years of "sea-time" requiremed to get a skipper's ticket may mean a person has to spend a long time in fairly low-level positions before moving ahead... Do smarter people tend to go for professional on-land jobs they can get with book learning rather than long "time-served" requirements? Gross incompetence recently was behind a Canadian Ferry grounding in a narrow passage (sank the ship and killed a couple of people). And Exon Valdez is hard to forget for a lot of us coastal dwellers. Could the industry organize itself better in establishing a path so smart people with very high levels of integrity will become skippers? Do people who get axed from one job for a bad attitude perhaps end up skippering somewhere else and bring their bad attitudes or problems with them? I really don't know how it works exactly but shouldn't someone study this matter?

    April 14, 2010 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
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