Multi-Million Dollar Payout Proves Dangers of Cheap Foreign Shipping on Australian Coast

The owner of a Chinese coal carrier that ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef six years ago after veering more than 10 kilometres outside the shipping lane has agreed to pay $39.3 million to the Australian Commonwealth in damages.

The Taiwanese captain of the Shen Neng 1, a Chinese-registered coal ship, subsequently pleaded guilty to a charge of being the master of a ship without a pilot in the marine park.


The Maritime Union of Australia says the shocking accident – which was the worst disaster of its type on the reef - proves the high cost of cheap shipping on our coast.

The out of court settlement reached today is still less than a third of what the Commonwealth was seeking in the Federal Court.

The MUA has lobbied hard to stop foreign vessels and Flag of Convenience (FOC) ships ruining our precious coastline and has welcomed last week’s renewal of a Senate Inquiry into FOC shipping by the new Federal Parliament.

“If the Turnbull Government pushes ahead with the deregulation of Australian shipping we could well see more of this reckless damage to our pristine coastline,” MUA National Secretary and International Transport Workers’ Federation President Paddy Crumlin said.

“This was a prime example of FOC shipping’s race to the bottom. Deregulating shipping poses significant risks to national security, fuel security, our pristine environment and the world-best skills and training of the Australian shipping industry workforce.”

The 225-metre long, fully laden Shen Neng 1 ran aground at Douglas Shoal, East of Rockhampton on 3 April 2010, causing the biggest and worst direct impact on the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

The bulk carrier carved a 3-kilometre long scar onto the Douglas Shoal, severely damaging and destroying 115,000sq-metres, spewing toxic anti-fouling paint on the reef.

But the MUA says the Chinese owner, Shenzhen Energy Transport Co Ltd, and its insurer refused to accept responsibility and pay for the clean-up bill.

“For more than six years the foreign owners of this coal carrier thumbed their noses at the Federal Government’s push for damages,” Mr Crumlin said.

“During that time, the highly toxic anti-fouling paint has left a dark scar on our reef. Only now can a proper clean-up be paid for, but the damage could last for decades. We can’t afford cheap foreign shipping to run and ruin Australia’s coast.”

At a Senate Hearing into FOC Shipping earlier this year, the MUA gave evidence the foreign crew were fatigued. The chief mate had slept only 2.5 hours in the 38.5 hours prior to the accident.

After the accident, the owners of the Shen Neng 1 changed the name of the ship to Jia Yong, changed the ship’s management company and the DOC Holder responsible for safety.

Media Contact: Darrin Barnett 0428 119 703