A member of the Svitzer salvage team inspects the line connected to the tug, which is helping to keep the Shen Neng 1 in place.
A member of the Svitzer salvage team inspects the line connected to the tug, which is helping to keep the Shen Neng 1 in place. Maritime Safety Queensland

Shen Neng 1's salvage operation

FEDERAL Environment Minister Peter Garrett was expected to fly over the site of the Shen Neng 1 today, as the salvage operation enters its next step.

Two ships, one to pump oil from the stricken coal carrier and another to lay a containment boom, were expected to arrive either last night or this morning. However, Maritime Safety officials said they would not rush a delicate operation to get oil off the carrier.

Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) said response crews were continuing to move oil from the Shen Neng 1’s holed tanks into secure ones, ahead of a risky mission to get the oil off the ship entirely.

The MSQ said teams hoped to begin transferring more than 950 tonnes of heavy engine oil from the stricken ship onto another vessel within 24 to 48 hours.

MSQ general manager Patrick Quirk said the weather was fine around Douglas Shoal, where the ship ran aground on Saturday.

He said response crews would wait for optimal conditions before trying to pump the oil off the coal carrier.

“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.

The Pacific Responder, a salvage and response vessel from North Queensland, was carrying boom equipment to contain oil in the event of a spill.

The Svitzer salvage company had flown in special equipment for the oil recovery mission, but no decision had yet been made on whether to attempt to offload some 65,000 tonnes of coal aboard.

MSQ said a decision on that would be guided by an assessment of the ship’s condition.

Australian Transport Safety Bureau inspectors were aboard the ship to interview crew members about how it ran aground in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.



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