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. Dez

    Of course the Chinese government should pay! After all, the responsibilities of this misbehaving company lie with its shareholders.

    We should also blame China for even benefiting from this company. How dare they purposely tell Chinese companies to cut costs by any means possible! How dare they use shoddy toxic paint on their ships like any other ships!

    Despite the fact the ship was managed by a joint Chinese-Japanese venture, the Chinese was fully responsible right?

    Even if damaging the Barrier reef is unfortunate and the ones responsible should pay, China-bashing goes nowhere. I doubt there would be US bashing if it was a US ship.

    April 13, 2010 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
  2. MIke

    Let's worry about more important things like did Mario Lopez really make his girlfriend have plastic surgery. LOL!

    April 13, 2010 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
  3. dbeierl

    @65, I agree with your remarks, but you didn't point out that *all* marine antifouling bottom paints are toxic, they're supposed to be. The toxicity of these paints has been somewhat moderated over the years (Tri butyl tin oxide was once extremely popular but has now been severely limited in its use). I can't speak to the question of navigation error vs deliberate shortcut, but any ship that collided with the reef would cause the same sort of damage by its antifouling paint.

    And I'm truly shocked at the amount of China bashing. China has to clean up its collective act in a number of ways, but they're not monsters and they are capable of building or manufacturing things that are as good as the best made anywhere else. Where I think they need to take rapid action is addressing their culturally somewhat lax attitude toward fraudulent adulteration. Adulterating foodstuffs with melamine so as to artificially raise the protein test results is a horrifying case in point, because the stuff doesn't just cheapen the product, it's actively poisonous. It's hard for me to imagine someone deliberately doing this, but it's been done several times now on a large scale, and both animals and people in noticeable numbers have been injured and killed by it - both inside and outside China.

    April 13, 2010 at 8:11 pm | Report abuse |
  4. dave

    What's up with the Chinese and toxic paint? 😉

    April 13, 2010 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
  5. David

    Rudy wrote:
    "I hope the dammage (sic) will be charged to the company owning/operating the vessel. If they can't pay for it, the Chinese government should."

    The problem here is that the damage has no price tag. If the ship has wrongfully hit another ship, it would be a relatively easy manner to assess the costs of repairs and lost income and bill the responsible party. Even if the ship had somehow damaged an undersea algae crop or pearl farm, a fair assessment of damages could be made,

    But the injuries to the coral reef isn't by itself going to cost anyone any money. Tourism won't suffer. If the Australian government wants to spend money trying to recover the toxic paint and otherwise repairing the reef, it can do so. But it should determine what the value of the operation is relative to the costs of the effort. When government play with other people's money (as they always do), the expenses of such efforts often become completely untethered from the actual value of the benefits that such efforts generate.

    April 13, 2010 at 8:14 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Javier

    I think that the company of the ship should pay for the repairs and be restricted from using that type of paint on their boats or shouldn't go of trail by coral reefs

    April 13, 2010 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Chris

    Death of a thousand cuts....how many cuts have we done to the planet already!!

    April 13, 2010 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Leon

    I think the Chinese company in charge of the vessel should be held accountable, not the government. Is the US government responsible for paying a shop owner if an American citizen decides to shoplift from it? Of course not, the same principle applies here.

    April 13, 2010 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Steve

    "Ship's paint brings instant death to Great Barrier Reef". Where are our regulations on this type of paint? The reef would still be alive after the ship ran aground if it wasn't painted with a toxin. Of course there will be accidents. Keep toxic paint out of the ocean. We are too careless. This is just another example of short sight. As of right now all vesicles need to be repainted.

    April 13, 2010 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mike

    UNBELIEVABLE!!! How can this happen! It seems some people in this world just don't care about nature and simply care about making money... Someone needs to be FINED major major money for this.. money however isn't enough to fix what tooks thousands of years to be created... this is a HUGE loss to our marine environment and this company should be ashamed... I've watched to many shows about shark fin soup, whale killings, etc... it's rediculous that we allow this to happen in 2010

    April 13, 2010 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Colby

    Take his license away!! That's absurd!!

    April 13, 2010 at 8:28 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ron

    The ship should be confiscated by the Australian gov't and completely stripped (engines, oil, coal and scraggly ass paint). Then it should be towed outside the reef and sunk (therefore converted into an artificial reef) in order to mend some of the damage that has been done.

    April 13, 2010 at 8:31 pm | Report abuse |
  13. J Robinson

    "This incident serves to demonstrate the need to more closely monitor and track shipping worldwide, including making nations of registration responsible for shipping that sails under their flags. A worldwide treaty about inspection and tracking with national navies and coastguards tracking all ships and a supra national force monitoring all traffic in international waters."
    How naive. Who's going to pay for the monitoring? Also, you might notice a lot of ships are registered in Liberia. What are they going to do about it?

    Bottom line. No free lunch... and nobody's willing to pay for it as long as profit rules.

    April 13, 2010 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
  14. BLAKE

    the question i have is are they going to fined?? with gps technologies they should have known they were off coarse. the truth is they didnt care!!! less fuel consumed equalled a higher profit for the company. 3 miles of the great barier reef is destroyed with only an idea of how it will affect it. im sorry 3 miles of 1600 milers of reef or 19%.. who cares.. it still damaged. laws have to be inforced. storms are natural, a freighter off coarse to save money is irresponsible. pure and simple.

    to many individuals say that its a small part of a much larger thing. but the truth is a small part killed off or affected, really affects the entire ecosystem. we dont understand the oceans at all. what we think we know is only 1% of the whole picture. i hope someone can stand up and fight for what is right and just doesnt brush it off.

    April 13, 2010 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
  15. FreeWorld

    It is interesting to note that China's government is supposed to pay for this private misconduct. Why would that be? It's not the public or (as I have to read) evil little Chinese trying to destroy the reef. It is a misconduct by an individual or a company at best, not of a whole nation.

    To be frank, if we Americans would hold us to the same standards, our nation and taxpayers would need to pay a lot for the damage some of our companies cause abroad.

    I go and order dim sum now.

    April 13, 2010 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
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