Shen Neng 1 has leaked about two tonnes of oil onto the Great Barrier Reef.
Shen Neng 1 has leaked about two tonnes of oil onto the Great Barrier Reef. Queensland Maritime Safety

Oil may reach Yeppoon tomorrow

IT’S possible oil leaking from a grounded Chinese bulk coal carrier stuck on the Great Barrier Reef could hit the Yeppoon coastline by tomorrow afternoon.

Rockhampton Regional Council mayor Brad Carter said it was a “worst case scenario” but yesterday he was planning for that grim outlook.

The vessel Shen Neng 1 ran aground about 70km east of Great Keppel Island just after 5pm on Saturday.

It is carrying about 65,000 tonnes of coal and 975 tonnes of heavy fuel oil, which is slowly leaking.

It was travelling at full speed in a restricted area of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, more than 13 nautical miles off course, when it hit Douglas Shoal.

Although it’s not known if oil will definitely hit the shores, it is likely to impact on Shoalwater Bay, which is a national park area.

Cr Carter said the incident was of major concern to him and he would be asking questions.

“When the dust settles it needs to be asked why was a ship of this size carrying cargo so off course?” he said.

“It’s a global company and they need to be held responsible for their actions – the full force of the law needs to be applied in this case.

“It could have serious consequences for the future resources industry. We need to make sure this does not happen again.”

Yesterday professional salvagers were onboard Shen Neng 1 to begin the process of salvaging as fears grow stronger about the vessel breaking up.

If it does break up, it will be a major environmental disaster – dumping the entire coal and fuel load into the sea.

Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) general manager Patrick Quirk said the initial damage report suggested the main engine room was breached, the main engine damaged and the rudder seriously damaged.

Yesterday a tug boat was used to keep the vessel from grinding against the reef and a floating boom will be put in place by this morning.

MSQ deployed aircraft for assessments during the day.

An early-morning flight identified a small number of oil patches about two nautical miles south-east of the vessel.

So far about two tonnes of oil has leaked from the ship.

Mr Quirk said dispersants were deployed on Sunday on the oil leaking from the carrier.

“Dispersants are most effective in breaking up heavy oil when deployed within,” he said.

Local fishing expert Scott Lynch yesterday said it was difficult to say what impact the spill would have for marine life and the World Heritage-listed reef, but said it wasn’t good.

Mr Lynch, who writes a fishing column for The Morning Bulletin, said Douglas Shoal was a popular fishing spot for charter boats and local fishermen.

“The bay is still trying to recover from fresh water flow from the floods, so this isn’t going to help.

“We have a lot of shore life, so this could bugger up the crabs, prawns and beach worms – but it’s just a waiting a game to see where it impacts.”

Cr Carter said council and the Local Disaster Management Group would be assisting state authorities in everything possible to prevent a major catastrophe.

He said yesterday they were planning and looking at what vehicles they would have access to, aircraft assistance and liaising with the Department of Defence.

“One concern is the beach areas not being assessable by roads,” he said.

“It’s not looking like it will be a serious issue though. I am quite confident our planning is adequate if we do have a situation on Wednesday.”

Cr Carter said Great Keppel Island wouldn’t be impacted in any way, as the oil was drifting towards the north-west.

ROCKHAMPTON DECIDES: O'Rourke on the verge of victory

Premium Content ROCKHAMPTON DECIDES: O'Rourke on the verge of victory

Stay up to date with our rolling coverage of the vote count for the seat of...

Voters share thoughts at Frenchville School’s polling booth

Premium Content Voters share thoughts at Frenchville School’s polling booth

Find out what some of North Rockhampton’s residents thought about voting in today’s...

Vehicle ploughs into gazebo manned by CQ election volunteers

Premium Content Vehicle ploughs into gazebo manned by CQ election volunteers

CQ election workers had the fright of their lives after a ute came crashing into...