(LAWFUEL) – The master of a Hong Kong-registered bulk carrier ship will appear in the Gladstone Magistrates Court today for allegedly breaching shipping regulations in the environmentallysensitive Whitsunday area of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
It is alleged the 46-year-old Chinese national breached the regulations by travelling in the Whitsunday’s Compulsory Pilotage Area without a pilot on-board and travelled outside the designated shipping lane, breaching mandatory requirements in the Marine Park.
The matter was referred to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) and on 6 March 2009 AFP officers, assisted by members from GBRMPA, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and Queensland Police Service, conducted a search warrant on the vessel.
AFP National Manager of Economic & Special Operations Justine Saunders said that the appearance of the master of the ship before the court sent an important message to all owners of bulk carrier ships entering Australian waters that they must take their environmental responsibilities seriously. “The protection of the Australian environment is an issue the AFP takes very seriously and the AFP has a role to play in the detection and enforcement of laws designed to protect our environment,” Commander Saunders said. GBRMPA Chairman Russell Reichelt said that shipping was a legitimate use of the Marine Park and it was carefully managed to ensure vessels travelling close to coral reefs don’t harm the marine environment. “The Whitsundays are an environmentally sensitive area within the World Heritage listed Great
Barrier Reef Marine Park and a popular tourism area. It is important all shipping activities are carried out appropriately and without harm or potential harm to the environment or visitors,” he said. “Fortunately, it is very lucky that the action of the master of the ship did not cause major damage to the marine environment on this occasion. However, in the face of threats like climate change, it is important that all reef users comply with regulations to help ensure the Reef remains healthy and is not damaged.”
Marine Park regulations stipulate it is mandatory to have a pilot on-board vessels above 70 metres long or loaded chemical tankers in the Whitsunday Island Compulsory Pilotage Area due to the navigational complexity, traffic density, and high environmental value of the area.
The navigational task within the Whitsunday Island regions is demanding because of numerous reefs, including fringing reefs and continental islands. The principal risks of not having a pilot onboard relate to the potential for ship grounding, ship collision and chemical and oil pollution.
A 2001 oil spill risk assessment by the GBRMPA and Maritime Safety Queensland identified the Whitsunday Island region as was one of the four highest risk areas identified in the study. Approximately 6000 ship movements of large vessels occur in the Marine Park each year. The
Australian Government has a range of requirements in place to aid safe navigation of these vessels and to protect the marine environment.
Ships can access designated Shipping Areas and the General Use (Light Blue) Zone without a permit when transiting the Marine Park. However, to access all other areas, ships require a permit.
The man was charged with offences committed against Section 59B(1) of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975. The penalty for this offence for an individual is $11,000 or $55,000 for a body corporate.
GBRMPA – Lisa Pennisi (07) 4750 0807
AFP National Media (02) 6275 7100
Images of the vessel are available from AFP National Media upon request