The following update is valid at 17 May 2010 (information provided by John Baldwin, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority):
Following a successful refloat on 12 April, the Shen Neng 1 was towed to calmer waters nearer the Queensland coast for damage and stability assessments. It was determined that the vessel would need to have its cargo removed prior to being towed overseas for repair. Operating on technical and environmental advice, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) authorised for the vessel to be towed into the lee of Fraser Island approximately 250 km to the south.
The process of offloading the coal cargo began on 12 May at anchor. Maritime Safety Queensland experts supervised the off-loading of coal from the Shen Neng 1 to the smaller carrier Clipper Mistral in generally favourable conditions. The Clipper Mistral manoeuvred alongside the Shen Neng 1 and by midday on 13 May about 1,000 tonnes of coal had been safely removed.
By 17 May, the operation to remove coal from the damaged bulk carrier had passed an important milestone with the first coal ship filled and on its way into international waters. About 7,500 tonnes of coal was safely off-loaded onto the China-bound Clipper Mistral before a second, larger ship, the Johanna C, arrived early that morning. A total of 19,000 tonnes of coal will be removed from the Shen Neng 1 before it meets the safety requirements for a tow to an overseas discharge and repair port.
For more information, go to: www.gbrmpa.gov.au/corp_site/oil_spill_and_shipping_incidents/shen_neng_1_grounding
Latest news on the Shen Neng 1 is good. The ship’s bunker fuel has been successfully removed and the ship was refloated last night. It is now at a sheltered anchorage nearby undergoing a full inspection. Just in time as a strong southerly wind change is expected on site today. Scientists from GBRMPA and elsewhere are now assessing the damage to Douglas Shoals. For more, go to http://www.msq.qld.gov.au/~/media/msqfiles/home/about-us/msq-headlines/shen-neng-1-10pm-12-april.pdf
Response to any major vessel grounding in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is undertaken in accordance with detailed and carefully considered procedures developed between relevant departments and agencies of both the Australian and Queensland Governments. In this case the removal of the vessel and the management of any associated pollution event is the responsibility of Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) working with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA). The GBRMPA’s involvement is to assist in the field of providing environmental support and advice during the response. Following removal of the vessel, the GBRMPA, in association with Queensland environmental agencies, will become more active in assessing the extent of damage to the reef structure that has been impacted and the requirements, if any, for rehabilitation.
For details on the response as it taking place now, please visit the websites of MSQ at www.msq.qld.gov.au/About-us/Msq-headlines/Great-Barrier-Reef-grounding.aspx and AMSA at www.amsa.gov.au/Marine_Environment_Protection/Shen_Neng_1_Grounding/index.asp. The AMSA website has an excellent map of the area. These sites will give you both up to date information on the current response to the grounding and also provide useful background on shipping and ship grounding issues in the Great Barrier Reef.
A media release from the Chairman of the GBRMPA, Russell Reichelt, is at www.gbrmpa.gov.au/corp_site/info_services/media/media_archive/2010/2010_04_05.