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April 7, 2010

Shen Neng 1 stabilization efforts continue

Internal transfer of oil is continuing on the Shen Neng 1, the Chinese coal carrier grounded on Douglas shoal off the Central Queensland coast.

Maritime Safety Queensland General Manager Patrick Quirk said oil would continue to be transferred internally as part of the continuing effort to stabilize the ship and its cargo before beginning the longer process of refloating.

"This morning we'll again get on with transferring oil from vulnerable tanks to more secure tanks to minimize the risk of further oil spilling into the water," he said.

"This can initially be done during daylight hours so that we can see and take care of any oil which could enter the water during this process however our aim is for zero damage."

Mr. Quirk cautioned that the use of the term "refloating" could be misleading and reinforced that the immediate focus was on the transferring of oil.

"Any reports that we're 'refloating' the ship today are probably a little premature safely refloating the ship is the goal of course but transferring the oil is the next stage in our step-by-step risk-based approach," he said.

"As we advised yesterday, we will start transferring oil off the ship in the next 24 to 48 hours, assuming the necessary equipment is in place and that weather and sea conditions are favorable."

Mr Quirk said that forecast conditions at the moment was encouraging but that nothing would be taken for granted.

"Despite the scale, this is actually a delicate operation and we won't be rushing it," he said.

"Water has entered the vulnerable tanks however sea pressure is holding the oil in position which is why there is so little oil in the water at the moment.

"Simply put, the oil is floating on top of that water and the pressure of the water on either side of the breach is keeping that oil in the tank while we transfer it.

"The salvage team will wait for optimal conditions because we need to get this right.

"Every bit of oil in the water risks the marine environment and the shoreline." Two tugs are in place and stabilising the carrier against prevailing winds and the action of the sea.

The Pacific Responder, a dedicated salvage and response vessel from north Queensland, will arrive in the area today with specialized boom equipment to assist with the external transfer of oil.

Pacific Responder is an Anchor Handling Tug Supply (AHTS) vessel modified to fulfil the role of Australian Maritime Safety Authority dedicated emergency towage vessel (ETV). This is the only ETV of its type in Australia and operates in the particularly sensitive sea areas of the northern Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait. The vessel has its home port in Cairns but spends the majority of its time patrolling at sea, available for emergency towage tasking by AMSA should a maritime casualty occur. It is particularly suited to emergency towage with a bollard pull of 82 tonnes. Pacific Responder is also equipped to respond to other maritime incidents such as search and rescue or limiting the effects of ship-sourced pollution of the sea and carries oil pollution response equipment. ETV services are provided to AMSA by the Brisbane firm Australian Maritime Systems Limited in conjunction with Swire Pacific Offshore.


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