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. the real cable guy

    Whats the real excuse for the running a ground? Sonar! GPS! Depth Finder! Why do the Chinese allow have hazardous material on or in everything, seams like anything from China has Lead in it or Lead on it, or a hazardous material,

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

    I've read a lot of comments insisting that the company, or China pay for any damages and several comments stating it isn't that bad. Accidents do happen, but to say that accidents happen, or to say it is really just a small piece of the reef is minimizing the facts. The reefs, our beaches and any other naturally formed part of our world are all wonders that humans seem to take for granted. Yes, accidents happen, but nature take tens or hundreds of years to restore what we damage in one single accident. It is not only the ship's captain who is at fault, we need to better protect such barriers and find ways to prevent such happenings. One last statement. The Chineese government didn't send this ship out to kill the reef.

    April 13, 2010 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Donnie

    U.S. ranks 61 in the Environmental Performance Index. In addition, we are one of the leading contributors to China's problem with our number export now being WASTE! Please will somebody tell America to wake the f up. The rest of the world sees U.S. in the same lens as China when it comes to pollution. The hypocrisy in the above statements toward China reinforce the message that, yes, we do live in a world filled with idiots. But who am I to speak, please don't let this message stop you from living out comfortable daily routine.

    April 13, 2010 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Craig

    Just an FYI for all those condemning the Chinese for the paint used.....99% of the world's ocean going boats, from small sailboats to ocean liners, use the same exact paint or something similar that would have the same effect. It's designed to be ablative and retard marine growth from latching on.

    Despite situations like these, its far more environmentally friendly to use it than not to. Most notably, having a smooth, critter-free hull cuts down on drag significantly, which cuts down on fuel usage by upwards of 30-50%. And no, you cannot simply power-wash the hull off every once in a while, if only it worked that way.

    April 13, 2010 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Ed

    To those who blame "Big Business" this was a Chinese ship which comes from a communist country. How are businesses and capitalism to blame for this tragedy? Furthermore, accidents can and do happen under any system of government. I don't see how the government plays into this at all.

    April 13, 2010 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Howie

      In case you hadn't noticed, China embraced capitalism in the 1990s. They have giant business interests, and the chinese government itself is basically one giant profit motivated corporation.

      October 22, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  6. PETER

    The only heartening thing about this mess is the overwhelming consensus amongst the commenters that we should not stand by passively and let this sort of negligence go unchecked. This sends a clear message that we are fed up, and won't continue to look the other way while our mother earth is destroyed for materialistic interests.

    April 13, 2010 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jason Glugla

    While they're stuck, maybe they can chop off some shark fins for soup. Leave drowning sharks
    to decorate the dying reef.

    April 13, 2010 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Bob Hill

    i love the stereotypes going around. all asians don't suck at driving. just some people ruin it for others.

    and as for this incident. i believe we should step up the game and find who is responsible. and a lot of eyes are going towards the chinese government because of their lousy credibility.

    April 13, 2010 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
  9. me

    The problem is not the phyical damage, but the reminants of paint left on the reef. It is made to last for quite some time, and slowly leeches copper, which is extremly toxic to most marine life.

    April 13, 2010 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Dags

    The Great Barrier Reef may be huge...but it's already sustained much damage and is deteriorating quickly. This is a huge set back.

    April 13, 2010 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Rigglets

    So – how would we 'make' China do anything they didn't want to do? They're evil, and don't they still have the 'rule' that every married couple can have only one child? I'm afraid, one of these days, they'll pull their hold card against us since we owe them billions, and want to take over this country.

    April 13, 2010 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
  12. chingchong

    That poor ship and crew.
    I hope that reef did not cause any unecessary hold up for the owners getting paid on time.
    Is there a relief fund that could be setup to paint the ship again?

    April 13, 2010 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
  13. taekwondo48

    I like the idea of charging the ships owner for the damage. They shouyld know better. If not, Australia should confiscate teh ship and sell it at auction to raise the money to fix the reef.

    April 13, 2010 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Matthew

    Why does this article not mention who will actually be responsable for PAYING for the clean up. I hope this Chinese company takes full responsability... if not, the international community should boycott it!

    April 13, 2010 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
  15. edgirl

    The Chinese are completely incompetent in safety and regulation. Their standards are poor and their concern for our earth is void. We need to send a strong message and sue them for damages. We need to bycott all goods until they become members of good standing on the planet!!!!!!!!! Who needs toxic toys?

    April 13, 2010 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
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