Ship shortcut lands crew in hot water

Published: 20/07/2011

Two crew from a Hong Kong-based bulk carrier pleaded guilty and were fined a total of $53,000 in the Gladstone Magistrates Court today for entering a restricted area in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

The chief officer and third officer were in charge of the 180 metre-long Signe Bulker when it illegally entered an area in the Capricorn-Bunker Group of Islands on 18 January this year.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 prohibits ships from entering some areas in the Marine Park including the cluster of islands that make up the Capricorn-Bunker Group.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Chairman Russell Reichelt said it was important that ships complied with the rules to ensure both the environment and their industry is protected.

"The Great Barrier Reef is a multiple use area and shipping is a legitimate use of the area, provided it is carried out in accordance with the rules and regulations," he said.

"This court result shows the importance of the rules in place to protect the Great Barrier Reef, and highlights that there are real and serious consequences for breaking the law.

"The vessel's route took it through an array of sensitive habitats with hazards to navigation, presenting a high level of risk to a vessel the size of the Signe Bulker.

"In addition, the Capricorn-Bunker Group is special and unique and was the first part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to be declared and protected. It is also a popular tourist site.

"There are 10 major trading ports along the Great Barrier Reef coast and the latest statistics show that over 3500 ships operate in the Great Barrier Reef, making over 9700 voyages each year.

"Most routine shipping activities have negligible consequences on the Marine Park. Almost all ships travel safely along the designated shipping routes of the Great Barrier Reef with little, if any, impact.

"There have only been three major shipping incidents in the last 10 years."

The Signe Bulker was originally heading towards Lady Musgrave Island before deviating through the Capricorn-Bunker Group of Islands and transiting through the restricted area between 7am – 9am.

The Signe Bulker then headed south-west to Gladstone, where it anchored and marine authorities boarded the vessel to interview the crew.

This joint investigation involved the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Queensland Water Police (Gladstone Office) and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

The maximum penalty for crew for this type of offence is $110,000.


Name: GBRMPA Media
Contact: (07) 4750 0846