WWF-Australia and the Australian Marine Conservation Society welcomed the new North East Shipping Management Plan released yesterday, October 7, saying it addressed a number of concerns about “rogue” ships threatening the Great Barrier Reef.
“Shipping presents a major threat to the Reef – just one incident could have catastrophic impacts for the Reef’s future,” WWF-Australia Reef campaigner Louise Matthiesson said.
Since 1993, there have been 5 collisions and 9 groundings near the reef – 80% of them caused by human error.
When the massive coal carrier Shen Neng 1 crashed into the Reef in 2010 it left a 3 km scar and the coral has yet to grow back.
“The Shen Neng I grounding was caused by crew incompetence and it was simply good luck it was not a full scale disaster,” said Ms Matthiesson.
WWF has long recommended that vessels with a history of poor seamanship and seaworthiness are banned from entering the Reef World Heritage Area.
“Given the dangers posed by rogue ships we’re encouraged by commitments in the plan to police ship safety and crew competency,” she said.
– the Australian Maritime Safety Authority ensuring only high quality ships, operated by competent crews, trade in the region
– increased numbers of marine surveyors at ports, and
– continued research to better identify ships that pose a higher risk.
Darren Kindleysides, Director of the Australian Marine Conservation Society, welcomed that the plan acknowledged the realities of combined impacts on the Reef.
“There is a refreshingly honest approach, with the plan acknowledging and responding to the increased risks the growth in shipping poses to the Great Barrier Reef,” he said
“For example the plan admits that when discharges from ships are combined with pollution washing off the land then large areas of the Reef may reach critical pollutant concentration thresholds.
“More ships mean more anchorages and the increased risk of invasive species being introduced from ballast water needs to be more fully addressed.
“Given the budget cuts and loss of staff at GBRMPA the Australian Government must also ensure it has the capacity to fulfil its significant duties under the plan,” Mr Kindleysides said.
Image Source: Shen Neng 1, Great Barrier Reef.
© Image courtesy of State of Queensland (Department of Transport and Main Roads).