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April 14, 2010

Arrests in Shen Neng 1 grounding case

Two men have been arrested by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) in connection with the grounding of the bulk carrier Shen Neng 1 on Douglas Shoal, part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park on April 3, 2010.

The arrests follow a joint investigation conducted by the AFP, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).

It will be alleged in court that the men were the master and chief officer-on-watch of the vessel that caused damage to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

The men will appear in Gladstone Court tomorrow.

The criminal investigation began after the AFP received a referral from GBRMPA on 5 April relating to the grounding of the vessel, which occurred at approximately 5pm on 3 April 2010.

Investigations showed that the Shen Neng 1 failed to turn at a waypoint required by the intended course of the ship. A waypoint is a location at which a ship is to alter course.

Federal agents, assisted by GBRMPA and AMSA investigators, executed a search warrant on the vessel today as it was located approximately three nautical miles north west of Barren Island, Queensland in Australian territorial waters.

The master of the vessel, a 47-year-old Chinese man has been charged with liability for vessel causing damage in Marine Park, contrary to section 38FC of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975. The maximum penalty for this offense is a $55,000 fine.

A 44-year-old Chinese man has been charged with person in charge of vessel within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, causing damage to the Marine Park, contrary to section 38DA of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975. The maximum penalty for this offense is three years imprisonment and/or a $220,000 fine.

The Shen Neng 1 arrests follow the arrests last week of three men by the AFP in connection with the alleged entry of a bulk carrier, the MV Mimosa, into a restricted area of the Great Barrier Reef without permission.

They appeared in Magistrates Court earlier this week and were released on bail.

The investigation began after the AFP received a referral from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) relating to the Panama-flagged vessel. Federal agents, assisted by GBRMPA and Australian Maritime Safety Authority investigators, executed a search warrant on the vessel at Bowen, Queensland.

Navigational equipment and charts were seized and the three men were arrested.

It was alleged in court that on April 4, 2010, the MV Mimosa entered the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park via Flinders Passage, east of Cape Bowling Green, which is an unidentified shipping route.

It was also alleged that the vessel was not registered with the Reef Vessel Tracking System (VTS), failed to provide a pre-entry report and did not respond to contact attempts made by VTS.

The vessel allegedly made a track east of Chicken Reef and west of Anzac Reefs and tracked in a south-south east direction, passing to the east of Big Broadhurst Reef. The vessel then steamed towards Abbot Point Coal Terminal north of Bowen in Queensland.

A 63-year-old South Korean man was charged with liability for a ship used in committing an offense, contrary to section 38FB of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975. Two Vietnamese men, aged 26 and 32 years, were charged with conduct prohibited or done without required permission, contrary to section 38BA of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975.

The maximum penalty for these offenses is a $220,000 fine.

Following the MV Mimosa arrests, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority released this statement:

About 9,700 ship movements of large vessels occur in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park every year, some passing close to coral reefs and ecologically sensitive areas. In recognition of the outstanding values of the Great Barrier Reef, the International Maritime Organization has declared the entire region a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area, and the waters of the Great Barrier Reef have the most stringent management arrangements for commercial shipping of any water body in the world. The arrangements include specified areas and passages for shipping use, vessel tracking and reporting requirements.

Ships may access the Designated Shipping Area and the General Use (Light Blue) Zone without a permit when transiting the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. These areas were selected considering requirement for safe navigation and environmental protection. To access all other areas, ships require a permit.

While not a common occurrence, vessels have been detected illegally transiting through protected areas of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park from time to time, as was the case with the MV Mimosa on 4 April 2010.

Reports suggest the MV Mimosa entered the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park via Flinders Passage, east of Cape Bowling Green. If proven, the ship's passage through this area is an offense under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 which is designed to protect and conserve the environmental values of the Great Barrier Reef. The case of the MV Mimosa is presently under investigation.

The Minister for Environment Protection and the Minister for Home Affairs have confirmed that the Australian Government takes very seriously any breaches of legislation.


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