Commercial and non-commercial use
There is also the potential for shipping incidents outside the Region to affect the Region, for example through a disabled vessel or a spill drifting into the area. Such an incident almost occurred in 2012 when the bulk carrier, ID Integrity, broke down in the Coral Sea and drifted for five days. The decline in the age of ships visiting ports in north-east Queensland, from 9.5 years in 2008–09 to 7.8 years in 2012–13 (not including ships on intrastate voyages), is also likely to have improved ship safety in the Region.135
Ship grounding sites can take decades to recover.
Ship groundings affect the Region’s Indigenous heritage values. For Traditional Owners, the reefs of the Great Barrier Reef have many stories associated with them, and cultural practices and lore linked with such story places can be ‘broken’ or affected by a grounding. Particular examples include Piper Reef where the Peacock ran aground in 1996146 and the Doric Chariot in 2002147. Piper Reef is an important story place for its Traditional Owners and these groundings are likely to have affected the cultural heritage of the site. Sudbury Reef, where the Bunga Teratai Satu ran aground in 2000148, is not only a story place but an important cultural place where young men go for a traditional rite of passage149. Disturbance from the anchoring of ships is a localised chronic impact which is expected to become more frequent close to ports.151 For many of the areas where ships anchor, the biodiversity values are likely to be relatively low.151 The increasing prevalence of ships anchoring off ports is likely to reduce or alter aesthetic values.151 Other risks include the potential for pest introduction and for the displacement of other users such as recreational visitors and commercial fishers.151 Unidentified heritage values may also be affected, for example World War II wrecks and shipwrecks, plus Indigenous sites of significance, story places and songlines. Introduced species can enter the Region on all types and sizes of vessels from yachts to cargo ships (see Section 3.6.3). Species may be transferred on external and internal surfaces of vessel hulls and on equipment which makes contact with the water (for example, propellers, ropes, chains and intake grates). Introduced marine species have been found in ports along the Great Barrier Reef coastline (for example Asian green mussels in the Cairns port), although none have been recorded beyond these ports. The most recent detection was of Asian green mussels on a tug at the Port of Hay Point. There is the potential for introduced species to have regional effects on the ecosystem — the nature of those effects would depend on the species introduced. There is emerging evidence of additional impacts from ship operations worldwide, for example the leaching of biocides from ships’ antifouling coatings152,153, loss of ‘communication space’ for marine animals as a result of vessel noise154 and the disturbance and resuspension of sediment from the wakes of deep-draft vessels.155 However there is limited information of the effects of these impacts within the Region.
Grounding of Shen Neng I, April 2010