Barrier Reef shipping must stay on radar

Posted on 09 April 2010  | 
With containment devices now deployed and efforts underway to remove oil from the stricken Shen Neng 1 coal carrier, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd must now commit to a formal and comprehensive review of shipping in the Great Barrier Reef.

As attempts to prevent a major environmental catastrophe continue, the Rudd Government must demonstrate how it plans to lower the risks to vulnerable and sensitive marine areas from impacts associated with shipping accidents, starting with a broad-reaching review.

"What this incident shows, along with the previous ship groundings over the last ten years, is that the system is not foolproof," said WWF Australia spokesperson Richard Leck.

"Currently there appear to be a number of black holes in the way shipping is managed in the Great Barrier Reef leading to an unacceptable level of risk.

"The Prime Minister's initial comments that Great Barrier Reef shipping needs closer scrutiny are a good start but we are urging the Government to undertake a formal review of this incident and the threats posed by shipping traffic to the reef."

As part of this formal review process, WWF recommends the following measures are considered:

  • All large commercial vessels travelling within all parts of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area be required to have qualified and experienced pilots on board;
  • Effective Vessel Tracking Systems be implemented or extended to cover the entire area of the Great Barrier Reef;
  • A review of shipping routes inside and outside the Great Barrier Reef be conducted, with a focus on narrow channels and proximity to reef habitats, mindful of the need to maximise safety factors for vessels and crew, for example during cyclone seasons, as well as minimise environmental risk.

"For the past ten years, WWF has consistently called for significant improvements in the way shipping is managed in the Great Barrier Reef. This incident is yet another wake up call that improvements are needed. Governments need to act now to commit to a review and subsequently on recommendations," Mr Leck said.

"The global outrage over the Shen Neng 1 grounding has shown us that the world never wants to see another preventable incident happening in amongst the coral reefs, turtle nesting grounds, and sea bird breeding sites of the Great Barrier Reef."

More information
Charlie Stevens, WWF-Australia Media Manager - Queensland, 0424 649 689
Richard Leck, WWF-Australia, 0439 814 847

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