Statement on out-of-court settlement with owners of Shen Neng 1

Statement by Dr Russell Reichelt, Chairman, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

"The owners and insurers of the Chinese bulk carrier Shen Neng 1 have accepted their responsibility to pay for damage caused to the Great Barrier Reef in April 2010 with an agreed payment of $39.3 million plus costs.

Restoration of the damage to the Reef is my highest priority in pursuing this claim and it is good news for the ecosystem that the settlement has been agreed.

Since the grounding, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has insisted that Douglas Shoal must be repaired to allow the naturally resilient corals in that area to recover, after the fully laden 225 metre-long Shen Neng 1 left the reef top crushed and coated with toxic paint as it drifted over three kilometres.

I am pleased that our 2013 decision to pursue a legal claim for damages, after negotiations with the vessel's insurers became protracted, has now led to an agreement to make funds available for a clean-up.

While the court processes were underway, the Marine Park Authority conducted surveys at the site and tested clean-up methods.

Using this scientific and engineering work, the agency will use the funds from the settlement to initiate field operations to remove paint and rubble, enabling restoration of the natural ecological processes on this reef.

Earlier on in this matter, our investigation also led to the ship's master and first officer being convicted of criminal offences against the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act. The first officer was found criminally negligent, resulting in a jail term.

Damage to the Great Barrier Reef caused by such negligence should be made good by the ship owner or their insurer and not left to the Australian taxpayers to fund repairs.

It is clearly unsatisfactory that it has taken more than six years to reach this point of settlement with the owners of Shen Neng 1, the Shenzhen Energy Transport Company.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is a place of outstanding beauty and diversity, and all who use it have a responsibility to ensure it remains this way for current and future generations."

Ministerial media release: Owner of Sheng Neng 1 to pay Commonwealth $39 million following out of court settlement