The Maritime Union of Australia says the breakdown of a bulk carrier in the Coral Sea shows the need for greater regulation of shipping on the Great Barrier Reef.
The Danish owned, Hong Kong registered vessel ID Integrity was on its way to Townsville to load sugar when its engines failed last Friday, some 175 nautical miles north-east of Cairns.
There were concerns the ship could have ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef, causing an environmental disaster. Three tugboats were required to tow the stricken vessel, which is expected to arrive in Cairns this afternoon.
MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said the Australian Government's proposed shipping reforms would mean more qualified pilots and highly skilled seafarers would be on hand to navigate ships sailing close by one of the great natural wonders of the world.
"MUA members are out there doing their job to protect the reef and assist the seafarers on board the stricken vessel," Mr Crumlin said.
"It should also be noted that the response time for our members to leave home, fuel up, provision up and set sail to respond was four hours from receiving notice."
Mr Crumlin said shipping reform had a vital role to play in the government's current efforts to protect the Great Barrier Reef.
"The health of the Barrier Reef is currently threatened from a wide range of angles, however there is obviously a very significant potential effect from shipping," he said.
"You don't have to go too far back to see how true this is. Accidents like the Shen Neng 1 coal carrier incident in 2010 prove just how dangerous shipping can be to the natural environment if not conducted under proper regulations.
"In recent years alone, incidents involving the Pasha Bulker near Newcastle and the Rena in New Zealand have added further evidence in this area.
"There are a hundred good reasons to implement this legislation as soon as possible, but none more important than ensuring that the Great Barrier Reef stays protected for future generations."Bottom of Form
On Sunday at around 10:30am, the commercial tug PT Kotor became the first to assist the ID Integrity. Its crew was able to connect a tow line and tow the bulk carrier slowly south east, away from the reef, while waiting for assistance from larger vessels.
At around 8:30am Monday, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's Emergency Towage Vessel Pacific Responder - manned by MUA members - connected a tow rope to the ID Integrity.
Pacific Responder arrived late on Sunday night, but had to wait until first light on Monday to safely connect a line to the bulk vessel.
ID Integrity is now being towed to Cairns by the Pacific Responder, and is being escorted by a third tug, the PB Leichhardt, which arrived shortly after the Pacific Responder. PT Kotor has been released after approval from AMSA.