Fears are growing of an environmental disaster on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef caused by a Chinese coal carrier in danger of running aground and breaking up.
The Chinese Shen Neng 1 ran aground late Saturday on Douglas Shoals, a favorite pristine haunt for recreational fishing east of the Great Keppel Island tourist resort. The shoals which are off the coast of Queensland state in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, are in a protected part of the reef where shipping is restricted by environmental law. The 755 foot (230 meter) bulk carrier was carrying about 72,000 U.S. tons (65,000 metric tons) of coal to China and ran aground within hours of leaving the Queensland port of Gladstone. Conservationists have expressed outrage that bulk carriers can travel through the reef without a marine pilot with local expertise. The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,600 kilometres (1,600 mi) over an area of approximately 344,400 square kilometres (133,000 sq mi). The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland in northeast Australia. The Great Barrier Reef, now under massive threat of destruction in the southern zone, can be seen from outer space and is the world’s biggest single structure made by living organisms.