Crew charged over Great Barrier Reef route

oil-spill_110410

Three people have been charged with steering a cargo ship through a protected part of the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia.

The men, from Vietnam and South Korea, will appear in an Australian court on Monday, accused of taking their coal carrier on an unauthorised route.

The route crossed one of the world’s most valuable marine wildlife reserves.

In a separate incident last week, a Chinese vessel ran aground on the reef and began leaking oil.

The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest reef system and extends for more than 2,500km.

Celebrated as the world’s largest living organism, it is feared to be under threat from climate change.

‘Rat-runs’

The Australian Federal Police executed a search of the bulk carrier MV Mimosa following a tip-off from the maritime authorities that the ship had entered a restricted area of the reef.

Navigational equipment and charts were seized in the raid and three men, a 63-year-old South Korean man and two Vietnamese sailors aged 26 and 32, were charged.

It is alleged that the vessel was not registered with the Reef Vessel Tracking System and failed to respond to attempts by the authorities to establish contact. If found guilty, the men could face a maximum fine of more than A$200,000 (US$205,000).

The ship allegedly entered the prohibited area a day after a Chinese-owned coal carrier ran aground in another part of the reef, threatening an environmental catastrophe.

Salvage teams are still working to pump oil from the ship, which had strayed off course and rammed into a sandbank at full speed.

It has since emerged that bulk carriers regularly take short cuts through the world heritage-listed marine park – reef “rat-runs” that cut down on voyage times and therefore save money.

The Australian government has vowed to tighten up its maritime laws in response.

Source: bbc.co.uk