Ship master convicted and fined for entering no-go zone

A master of a coastal trading vessel was convicted and fined $5000 in the Cairns Magistrates Court last week for being in charge of a ship that entered a shipping exclusion area in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

The master pleaded guilty to entering an exclusion zone near the Turtle Group of Islands, 28km northwest of Cape Flattery, in November 2015.

Under Marine Park legislation, ships must only travel in designated shipping areas or general use zones to protect the marine environment. Commercial ships are monitored for their compliance.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority field management director Richard Quincey said the outcome of the court case highlighted the consequences of putting the environment at risk.

“The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is a multiple-use area — shipping is allowed and there are rules in place to ensure shipping is safe and the marine environment is protected,” he said.

“Shipping in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area is highly regulated — most ships navigate safely through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park along routes designated for shipping and pose minimal risks to the environmental and World Heritage values.

“However ship operators who do not comply with these requirements pose extreme risks to the environment.

“We welcome the result in the Cairns Magistrates Court and hope this is a timely reminder for other commercial ship masters to know and follow the rules.”

The ship was detected through the REEFVTS, which monitors commercial shipping in the Marine Park to enhance navigational safety, minimise accidents and pollution, and coordinate rapid response to incidents.

REEFVTS is operated under joint arrangements between the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and Maritime Safety Queensland.

The master entered a guilty plea to breaching Section 38BA of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975.

North-west of Cape Flattery, the Turtle Group is included within a Marine National Park (Green) Zone (MNP-14-1025) of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

The Turtle Group of islands are surrounded by fringing coral reefs and include a high diversity of sponges, 36 per cent of which have not been recorded elsewhere in the Great Barrier Reef.