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. Butabi

    I find it hilarious that all these anti-chinese sentiments yet not too long ago the same was being said about the US. In fact, if we from the united states claim we are better at evertytrhing, how about holding up to our agreement about green technology? China is way ahead on us in that area.

    Lastly, relax. All you treehuggers need to chill out. This oil spill isn't even the most damaging. We've seen far worse in the last 20 years. This too will pass. So will the chinese and the environmental policies. Comments like these are the same reason that people around the world hate the US. Way to continue it.

    April 13, 2010 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mike

    I hear about the Chinese being at fault but the american people support this when we buy all this plastic crap and unnecessary garbage being made in China. The coal is being shipped there to support the industries that we support by our overindulgent consumerism.

    April 13, 2010 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mike

    How do you possibly buy a coral reef? How can money help in this case? It takes centuries or more to build a coral reef of this type. Also, Exxon did not pay over $2.2 billion, they have appealed and paid only a small fraction of what they were initially ordered to pay. How much do you charge for irreversibly damaging a stretch of one of the rarest ecosystems in the world?

    Also, the reason it was a Chinese ship is easy: look at the flags of ships sailing the seas, not many American ships paying professional merchant marine crews out there. The Australian merchant marine fleet includes 55 vessels, USA: 465 and China: 2,521. We just don't have many ships carrying coal in the Pacific nowadays.

    April 13, 2010 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  4. James

    While its sad this happened, folks need to relax. First, ALL ships have anti fouling/toxic paint on them not just ones from China. And the fact that its doing what its supposed to is not surprising. The thing that worries me is not that China will get away with it as much as this notion that we can rush in there and 'fix' the reef. We thought that in Alaska and we did more damage then the oil. Yes, it stinks, but Mother Nature can and will recover from this. Quit thinking we can save from us and enjoy the show.

    April 13, 2010 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  5. rh

    I agree, either the shipping company or the Chinese government should pay damages.

    April 13, 2010 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  6. mike

    Aaron, yes it's a coal ship, but there was indeed a small oil spill from it. But again, oil is not the issue. People are failing to even read the headline.

    April 13, 2010 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Raymond

    This saddens me, humans need to learn to respect nature. And treat it with the same respect as they would their own mother. Without it we as a race will die!

    April 13, 2010 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Mark H

    The Chinese company should pay all fees associated with the environmental cleanup and repair as well as a hefty fine. Maybe other ship captains will not be so careless when navigating.

    April 13, 2010 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  9. jaysunstar

    This is what happens when businesses try to save money in fuel by allowing the ships to get closer to the reef so they don't have to go as far out of the way. It's all about money. Disgraceful.

    April 13, 2010 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  10. H2Driver

    There is plenty of the reef left people. It's not like they destroyed it. That ship could have backed up and ran over it again and still not do any major long-term damage. The world is much more durable than all of the tree-huggers want you to believe.

    April 13, 2010 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jason

    The ship was 17 miles off course because they were trying to shorten their route. The shipping lane goes outside the reef specifically because it is dangerous, as well as being protected area. But the shorter, faster, (read: money saving) route goes through the reef. It's not a navigational error or GPS problem, or someone asleep at the wheel, it was a blatant attempt to use a "short cut" to save fuel/time.

    April 13, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Star

    3 miles of 1600 miles of reef slightly damaged is about .19% of the reef. Lets not go all postal here. Single large storms yearly have been known to produce much more damage than that. Sure they should pay – but lets not go overboard.

    April 13, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Chris

    So it's not just cars that they're lousy at driving...

    April 13, 2010 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  14. angel

    This is clearly and accident that could have been prevented. So yes, I believe that there should be concaquences for this. and it may only be 3 miles of the reef, but that is 3 miles of home that many creatures in the ocean now do not have. The chinese should be made an example of and fined for this incadent.

    April 13, 2010 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Ben

    I think there are some consequences that need to be given. Even though the reef is huge and it is only 3 miles, the reef has been growing for years and years. The destruction of this is decades of natural growth and beauty. It just show how destructive we are becoming.

    April 13, 2010 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
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