An inspection team has found the damage resulting from the 3 April grounding of a bulk carrier on the Great Barrier Reef (Australia), a World Heritage site. Initial inspections indicate the impact site covers approximately 2.5 km, and reef scarring and potentially toxic paint residue have been found. The coral and sea bed structure was completely crushed in some areas and approximately three tons of oil were leaked into the sea. Further assessments will be made in the coming days.
The inspection team was comprised of staff from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management.
It has since been announced that measures are being taken to improve surveillance of ships sailing through the waters of the Great Barrier Reef.
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and the Chairman of the World Heritage Committee João Luiz Silva Ferreira urge improved protection against such risks for World Heritage sites.
"The Great Barrier Reef is one of the jewels in the World Heritage crown," Ms Bokova said. "It is also an extremely vulnerable ecological system that requires careful protection. I welcome the proposed new measures."
Mr Silva Ferreira cautioned: "The international community should regard this incident as a warning for the future and take the necessary measures to prevent this type of incident from happening again in World Heritage sites."
The Shen Neng 1, carrying approximately 68,000 tons of coal and about 950 cubic meters of oil, was grounded at Douglas Shoal, one of about 2900 coral reefs and shoals in the Great Barrier Reef. Inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List in 1981, the site contains the world's largest collection of coral reefs, with 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of mollusc.