Crew arrested over Reef crash

Two crew members of the Chinese
coal ship that smashed into the Great Barrier Reef have been arrested and
charged by the Australian Federal Police.

The police said an investigation
had shown the ship failed to turn at a ”waypoint”, sending the Shen Neng 1
off the narrow shipping route and into the protected Douglas Shoal at full
speed.

The two men arrested are a
47-year-old, alleged by police to be the master of the vessel, and a
44-year-old, alleged to be the chief officer-on-watch. Both will appear in
Gladstone court today.

The police, with help from
officials from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and Great Barrier Reef
Marine Park Authority, arrested the men after executing a search warrant on the
ship, anchored near Great Keppel Island.

The chief on-watch officer has been
charged as the person in charge of a vessel causing damage to a marine park and
faces a maximum penalty of a $220,000 fine and three years in jail. The master
has been charged with liability for a vessel causing damage in a marine park,
and faces a maximum $55,000 fine.

The Australian Transport Safety
Authority will also release today the initial findings of the investigation
into the accident.

The arrests came as the Marine Park
Authority produced images of the damage to coral at Douglas Shoal. They show
areas of the once-pristine shoal flattened by the hull and deep scraping across
the coral bed.

The grounding and subsequent
pushing of the ship across the shoal by wind and tide left a path of destruction
2 miles long and up to 820 feet wide.

Marine Park Authority scientists
say it could take the reef 20 years to recover, and longer if testing of
anti-fouling paint left on the coral from the hull of the ship show it is
toxic.

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