The Australian Government has won a significant legal challenge and reached a $39.3 million dollar out of court settlement with the owners of a Chinese coal carrier that ran aground in April 2010 causing the largest known direct impact on the Great Barrier Reef.
For more than six years, Shenzhen Energy Transport Co Ltd and its insurer refused to accept their responsibility for restitution after the 225-metre long, fully laden Shen Neng 1 ran aground 100 kilometres east of Rockhampton at Douglas Shoal.
Our ongoing actions to pursue funds to clean-up the pollution sends an unambiguous signal that damage to the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area is unacceptable, and that we will use every available means to pursue ship owners who are negligent in causing damage to the Reef.
The funds, sufficient for the clean-up, will allow the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to initiate field operations to remove toxic anti-fouling paint and rubble, which will enable the restoration of the natural ecological processes of the reef.
The anti-fouling paint at Douglas Shoal contains a highly toxic component known as tributyltin (TBT), which is now banned from use. The paint also contains copper and zinc. Impacts to marine life on the seafloor could potentially last for many decades if the toxic anti-fouling paint remains in place.
Logistical planning for the clean-up has already begun, however due to the deep nature of Douglas Shoal and its exposure to strong tidal currents, work can only safely take place at certain times of the year. Allowing for seasonal weather, the clean-up operation will begin in mid-2017.
The terms of settlement mean $35 million will be paid to the Commonwealth for the cost of removing polluted rubble while a further $4.3 million will also be paid to cover costs incurred by the Australian Government in the immediate aftermath of the grounding.
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