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5 April 2010
The Government's priority is to ensure that any environmental damage to the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef is minimised.
Today the Minister for Environment Protection requested the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority coordinate a Scientific Panel to assess any environmental damage and to inform options for the ship's removal.
The next steps will involve the Minister for Environment Protection working closely with the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government to consider whether additional measures are required for the management of shipping in the Great Barrier Reef.
The Australian Government has made its resources available to Queensland to assist with the grounding of the Shen Neng 1 bulk carrier. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) continue to assist Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) in minimising risks to the environment and is making all possible assets and personnel available for the clean-up response. AMSA advises that last night a line was secured between the ship and the tug "Tom Tough" to assist in stabilising the ship's position. A second tug is expected to arrive tonight. AMSA's Dornier surveillance aircraft is providing observation flights, and two aircraft applied dispersant to a small oil discharge this morning. Indications today are that the amount of oil identified is minimal.
AMSA has sent an investigator to the area today, and is working with GBRMPA to explore what breaches or possible offences may have occurred under Commonwealth law. Last year the Australian Government increased the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's legislative powers to the national standard set by the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
AMSA's Pacific Responder has loaded with pollution response equipment and is expected to arrive on the site on Wednesday.
The National Response Team (NRT) was immediately activated and in addition to AMSA response personnel, located in Rockhampton and Gladstone, NRT members from NSW, Western Australia and Tasmania are either on site or en route today, and a further 12 NRT personnel from States/NT and the Australian Marine Oil Spill Centre are on standby for containment and recovery operations.
The Australian Government is committed to the ongoing protection of the Great Barrier Reef.