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. Tracy

    Why was the ship even CLOSE to the reef??? What is WRONG with this world? I can only HOPE that the damaage stays to a limit. How sad for our planet. And RUDY – I agree – the oil compnay should pay!!!!!!

    April 13, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  2. alex

    Rudy: Aparently 16 million, which is the silliest thing I have ever heard. I couldn´t buy 2 miles of GBR if I paid 16M. Confiscate the ship, resell it and use money to (try to) repair the reef.

    April 13, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Tim

    You can't really pay for a coral reef. I mean, one doesn't go out an buy a replacement. I believe they take thousands of years to grow back. Regardless, someone should have to pay money for some sort of restoration. But the world need coal, right? Or do we? We need to transition to new energy.

    April 13, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  4. jeremyped

    i sec that the company should pay everything

    April 13, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  5. LacrosseSon

    Leave it to the Chinese to find new ways to destroy the environment.

    So, why did the ship crash into the reef in the first place? Were they unaware of the largest reef in the world?

    April 13, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Karl

    How do you get 17 miles off course in this age of GPS?
    The negligent officers of the ship should be stripped of their pilotage credentials and sentenced to spending the rest of their lives restoring the reef and other damaged environments.

    April 13, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jack

    You'll assume that these ships have navigational equipment (GPS). How they didn't noticed they were 17 miles off course?? Also, don't the Australian authorities whatch their own waters and the waters around the reef?? I'm glad the ship wasn't carrying nuclear fuel or something like that!! I hope someone learns something from this event!

    April 13, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. sciguy

    Agreed, every penny spent remediating this site should be charged to the company involved.

    April 13, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Roger Dominguez

    It would be interesting to know what the crew of the ship was doing prior to running aground. Modern depth recorders (sounders) have alarms that can be set for a given depth. In addition GPS can be programmed to also sound an alarm if the ship is off course. Perhaps they all went to sleep! Unfortunately, money, will not restore the damage to the reef only time will do that.

    Tavernier Key, Florida

    April 13, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Rob

    Yes, the Chinese have a long and proven track record of respecting and preserving the environment. *rolls eyes*

    April 13, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  11. liz

    Couldn't agree more! They should be held financially responsible for all damages. They should be fined as well.

    April 13, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  12. New Yorker

    First lead paint in children's toys. Then, contaminated baby formula. Now, paint that killing ocean life. Nice track record, China.

    April 13, 2010 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Rafal

    Another reason to quit buying cheap Chinese imports!

    April 13, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Guest1234

    I hate hearing stories like this. We spend so much money on other things, why dont we spend more on protecting our environment and enforcing stricter regulations. You would think by now we would have safer, "greener" paint. I wish other people would feel the same way I do. But I know just myself can not fix the world. What is the planet going to be like in the next 20 years? I don't think I want to know.

    April 13, 2010 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Ed

    @Rudy – It will be some insurance company that pays then eventually charges us more for premiums. The owning/operating company will have no direct impact other than free advertising. Think we're ever forget the name Exxon?

    April 13, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
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