A Chinese ship, the Shen Neng 1, has run aground off the coast of Queensland, Australia. The accident happened this past Saturday, April 3, 2010.
The site of the accident is Douglas Shoal, which is about 70 kilometers from Great Keppel Island, in a restricted area near the Great Barrier Reef. The ship had left the Australian port of Gladstone a few hours before the late afternoon accident, and reportedly was off course -- outside authoriszd shipping lanes -- when it ran hard aground on the reef at full speed.
News reports say that the ship, a 230 meter long bulk carrier, was hauling a cargo of at least 65,000 tons of coal, and had around 1,000 tons of heavy fuel oil on board at the time of the accident. The vessel's 23 crew members are still on board, and are said to be safe, but fuel oil is leaking from the crippled vessel and is threatening the ecosystem of the Great Barrier Reef. Worse still, the vessel is said to be in danger of breaking up. If that happens, both its cargo and the rest of its fuel would be released into the sea with potentially devastating effects.
A New York Times article about the accident quoted an Australian maritime safety official who said that a hole in the bottom of the ship had allowed water into the main engine room. Both the main engine and the ship's rudder have been seriously damaged, complicating efforts by salvage teams to find a way to remove the Shen Neg 1 from the reef.
Aircraft have been dropping chemical dispersant onto the fuel spill, but rough seas have prevented deployment of floating booms that could contain the spill.
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