Troubled freighter drifts toward Great Barrier Reef

May 19, 2012
A picture from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority showing an Algal overgrowth section of the reef. A broken-down cargo ship was drifting towards Australia's Great Barrier Reef Saturday, with fears of major damage if it were to run aground at the World Heritage-listed site.

A broken-down cargo ship was drifting towards the fringes of Australia's Great Barrier Reef Saturday, with fears of major damage if it were to run aground at the World Heritage-listed site.

Authorities were rushing to the assistance of the Hong Kong-flagged bulk carrier, the ID Integrity, which broke down north of Cairns.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said the ship had suffered an "an engine breakdown en route from Shanghai" and was adrift on what is the world's biggest coral reef.

"The crew is currently attempting to repair the engine, in the hope that the vessel will be able to resume its passage," AMSA said in a statement.

"Contingency planning is under way in case the crew cannot get the engine restarted."

An emergency towing ship, the Pacific Responder, has been dispatched to the along with two tug but the first vessel would not reach the unladen ID Integrity until Sunday morning.

An image from NASA's Earth Obeservatory Internet site of the Great Barrier Reef, extending for 1,242 miles (2,000 km) along the northeastern coast of Australia. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) says the ID Integrity is drifting towards the reef after suffering "an engine breakdown en route from Shanghai".

The ship managed to pass over Shark Reef late Saturday night "with no damage sustained" by managing its ballast, but it continued to drift west towards the Outer Reef, on the edge of the main reef body, AMSA added in a later update.

"Emergency tugs will rendezvous with the ID Integrity late Sunday morning," the maritime authority said.

ID Wallem confirmed to AFP that the vessel "has now cleared the Shark Reef without incident.

It said the vessel was expected to drift in until the first tug arrived and "there should be no risk to the ".

The firm earlier played down the risk of the Integrity running aground and stressed that there was no cargo on board or pollution associated with its engine problems.

"There is no pollution and no injuries and the ship manager is working closely with all authorities notified," the ship management firm said.

"The ship manager and crew of the vessel will continue to work to quickly restore power and take measures to avoid any environmental impact in Australian waters."

It is not the first time a freighter has run into trouble on the Barrier Reef. The Chinese-registered coal carrier Shen Neng 1 foundered in April 2010 leaking tonnes of heavy fuel oil and threatening an ecological disaster.

While a major catastrophe was ultimately avoided, the huge ship gouged a three kilometre-long (1.8 mile) scar in the world's biggest coral reef. The vessel was stranded for nine days before salvagers could refloat it.

Senator Larissa Waters from the environmentally-driven Greens party said Saturday's breakdown was a reminder of the dangers of turning the reef into a "coal and gas superhighway" to Asia.

"While we all wait and hope that this ship can be rescued before it creates a disastrous spill, the Australian government should now take responsibility for the Great Barrier Reef and stop this headlong rush to boost fossil fuels exports at the expense of the climate and the environment," she said.

Explore further: Dutch unveil big plan to fight rising tides

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Oil spill as container ship hits N. Zealand reef

Oct 05, 2011

A large container ship ran aground on a reef off New Zealand's North Island Wednesday, releasing a "light sheen of oil" but not posing a major environmental hazard, the country's maritime authority said.

Salvaging ship from Barrier Reef could take weeks

Apr 05, 2010

(AP) -- A salvage team could take weeks to remove a grounded coal-carrying ship from Australia's Great Barrier Reef, where it is leaking oil in a pristine marine environment, a state leader said on Monday.

Australia questions crew of ship that ran aground

Apr 06, 2010

(AP) -- The crew of a coal-carrying ship that ran aground on Australia's Great Barrier Reef and is leaking oil will be questioned Tuesday about why their vessel was in a restricted area, an official said.

Chinese ship leaks oil in Great Barrier Reef zone

Apr 04, 2010

A Chinese coal carrier leaking oil in Australia's environmentally sensitive Great Barrier Reef Marine Park after running aground, could be in danger of breaking up, authorities warned Sunday.

Recommended for you

Dutch unveil big plan to fight rising tides

4 hours ago

The Netherlands on Tuesday unveiled a multi-billion-euro, multi-decade plan to counter the biggest environmental threat to the low-lying European nation: surging seawater caused by global climate change.

Drought hits Brazil coffee harvest

7 hours ago

Coffee output in Brazil, the world's chief exporter, will slide this year after the worst drought in decades, agricultural agency Conab said Tuesday.

Landmark fracking study finds no water pollution

9 hours ago

The final report from a landmark federal study on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has found no evidence that chemicals or brine water from the gas drilling process moved upward to contaminate drinking water at one site ...

Politics divide coastal residents' views of environment

10 hours ago

From the salmon-rich waters of Southeast Alaska to the white sand beaches of Florida's Gulf Coast to Downeast Maine's lobster, lumber and tourist towns, coastal residents around the U.S. share a common characteristic: ...

User comments : 0