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Reef Report for Thursday, April 8, 2010

Coal Carrier Runs Aground on The Great Barrier Reef

This week a huge coal carrying freighter has run aground inside the boundaries of Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

The tanker, which had just taken on a load of 1000ís of tons of coal at a loading facilty near Gladstone ran aground into a coral covered shoal shortly leaving port.

The biggest threat to the environment is the 100 or so tons of heavy fuel oil that the boat is holding, The fuel tanks, while protected by a double hull, have ruptured and leaked a small amount of oil, but water entering the fuel tanks has pushed the oil up and away from the bottom of the tank, stopping the leak. Salvage crews are trying transfer this oil from the ruptured tank.

At the moment authorities are investigating what caused the ship to be so far off course so soon into a trip. The ship appears to have either made a turn into the normal shipping channel that leads between reefs to the open ocean many kilometers too early, or taken a very poorly executed shortcut.

Currently, there has been no impact on any dive sites anywhere on the Great Barrier Reef by the grounding or the oil spill.

Either way, given the amount of such traffic in and out of the Marine Park near the coal loading ports of Mackay and Gladstone, it would be a great idea to have pilots with local knowledge be used to prevent such a accident from happening again.

If things go well with the weather the boat may be refloated without breaking up and releasing any coal or any more fuel oil. But some navigation policies and procedures for these large ships need a thorough examination to more effectively protect the Great Barrier Reef.

Hereís a more or less daily coverage of the story so far:

April 6th coverage of this story, from The Australian

April 7th coverage of this story, from The Courier Mail

April 8th coverage of this story, from The Herald Sun

April 8th coverage of this story, from The Australian

(C) DiveTheReef The weekly reef report is written by Joel Groberg of DiveTheReef.com, who compiles them from the many conversations he has with dive staff in the area, as well as† many other local sources in the dive community.

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