Shipping Threat to Great Barrier Reef


The Australian government has been accused by environmental lawyers of failing to adequately protect the Great Barrier Reef from shipping traffic, reported the Guardian.

As shipping traffic increases, the likelihood of further damage, such as the 2010 grounding of Chinese coal carrier Shen Neng 1, increases. The damage from this one incident took more than six years to clean up.

After a lengthy court battle to secure funding the clean up process, Russell Reichelt, the Chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, said: “It is clearly unsatisfactory that it has taken more than six years to reach this point of settlement with the owners of Shen Neng 1, the Shenzhen Energy Transport Company.”

Based on the lessons learned from this episode, recommendations were published in October outlining the future means of securing funding to protect the Great Barrier Reef, but no progress has yet been made on carrying out these plans.

The reef, the world’s largest living organism, is already suffering bleaching as a result of rising sea temperatures caused by climate change. The government has been accused of not doing enough to protect one of the natural wonders of the world, although it did ban dumping along the reef in 2015.

The government has also released Reef 2050, a sustainability plan aimed at protecting the marine environment for the next three decades, but environmental lawyer, Ariane Wilkinson, still thinks more needs to be done. Speaking to the Guardian, she said:  “Two years ago, the North-East Shipping Management Group made it clear that there must be sufficient money available to immediately clean up damage to the Great Barrier Reef from future ship groundings but nothing has been done,”

“With the number of ships travelling through the reef only increasing, especially if the port of Abbot Point is expanded to ship coal from the proposed Carmichael mine straight through the reef, the next Shen Neng disaster is not a question of ‘if’ but a question of ‘when’.”

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