Australia to prosecute over Barrier Reef ship crash

Those
responsible for a Chinese ship running around on the Great Barrier Reef and
leaking oil will be prosecuted, Australian authorities say.

Transport
Minister Anthony Albanese said the vessel was clearly on an unlawful route and
compensation would be sought for the spill.

“We’ll
be throwing the book at those responsible,” Mr. Albanese said.

In a
separate case, three men have been charged with steering their cargo ship
through a restricted area of the Reef.

The men,
from Vietnam and South Korea, will appear in an Australian court on Monday,
accused of taking their coal carrier on an unauthorised route through one of
the world’s most valuable marine wildlife reserves.

It is
alleged that their vessel, the MV Mimosa, was not registered with the Reef
Vessel Tracking System and failed to respond to attempts by the authorities to
establish contact.

If found
guilty, the men could face a maximum fine of more than A$200,000 ($205,000).

The
Chinese vessel, the Shen Nang 1, rammed into a sandbank some 70km (43 miles)
off the east coast of Great Keppel Island on 4 April after straying off its
permitted route.

“It
is quite clear that this vessel went on a course that was unlawful,” Mr.
Albanese told reporters after flying over the stranded ship.

“The
Australian government will ensure that the full force of the law is brought to
bear on those responsible,” he said.

“And
we will also ensure… compensation is paid with regard to the cost of cleaning
up.”

Salvage
crews have been pumping fuel oil from the vessel, which was carrying carrying
950 tonnes of oil and about 65,000 tonnes of coal.

Inflatable
booms are in place around it to contain any oil that may spill.

In the
wake of these incidents, it has emerged that bulk carriers regularly take short
cuts through the world heritage-listed marine park – reef “rat-runs”
that cut down on voyage times and therefore save money.

The
Australian government has vowed to tighten up its maritime laws in response

The Great
Barrier Reef is the world’s largest reef system and extends for more than
2,500km.

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