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Reef disaster a failure in managing international shipping off Queensland Coast

Posted by Jim on April 7, 2010

The Queensland Greens candidate for Wide Bay, Dr Jim McDonald said a combination of cost-cutting by shipping companies, a preparedness to take risks at the expense of the Great Barrier Reef, and a failure by maritime authorities to properly monitor international shipping has caused the Shen Neng 1 disaster on Douglas Shoal.

“The fact that this Chinese ship was taking a known short-cut and there was no system where Australian pilots are required on board suggests that the Federal Government has been asleep on the job in managing shipping near the Great Barrier Reef.”

He said the current member for Wide Bay, The Hon. Warren Truss should shoulder as much of the responsibility for this failure as the Rudd Government, because he had been Minister for Transport in the Howard Government.

“The Rudd Government inherited the problem, and the present Minister, Hon. Anthony Albanese, does not appear to have addressed the heightened chance of disaster arising from ships cutting through a narrow and shallow passage through the reef.

“The responsible ministers in successive Federal Governments have whistled in the wind while they relied on the crews of international shipping lines to do the right thing.

“The Reef is a precious national resource and its protection requires close vigilance by the authorities. This has clearly not happened with respect to bulk-shipping vessels off the Queensland Coast and we are entitled to know why. I support Senator Brown’s call for a Royal Commission,” he said.

Dr McDonald said, “What should come out of this disaster is a regulatory system that ensures that all shipping is closely monitored along the Queensland coast. Pilots on ships sailing through the Reef must be an immediate outcome.”

Media Release,  7 April 2010

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