UPDATED: Coal-Carrying Ship Wrecked on Barrier Reef Leaves 2-Mile Scar, 20-Year Damage

great barrier reef image

Photo by eutrophication&hypoxia; via Flickr CC

Just over a week ago, a coal-carrying ship - the Chinese Shen Neng 1 - ran around on Douglas Shoals in the Great Barrier Reef. The ship was inside a marine protected area. It then rammed into the reef, and leaked about 4 tons of heavy fuel causing a roughly 3 km oil slick. Despite that the captain of the ship belittled the concern over the damage done to the reef, teams were able to free the carrier from the reef, but not with out noting the serious damage done to the coral where the ship ran aground - damage that will take around 20 years to disappear. According to Earth Times, the ship has been pulled from the reef and is stored at a safe anchorage, while Queensland Transport Minister Rachel Nolan says they will soon decide if it is sufficiently seaworthy to be towed to China, or if it will need repairs first.

Meanwhile, the damage it did to the reef will take 20 years to repair, say officials.

"This is by far the largest ship-grounding scar we have seen on the Great Barrier Reef to date," Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority chief scientist David Wachenfeld said. "We found areas of up to 20-40 metres across where the top of the shoal has been completely pulverized."

"It didn't just run aground and stop - it migrated over a kilometre over the week (it was grounded), doing damage as it went," Reichelt said. "The paint that's been scraped off onto the reef is killing corals in its vicinity or they are showing signs of almost immediate mortality from being close to the anti-fouling."

Corals are very sensitive to pollution, and while the Great Barrier Reef has seen some recovery over the past few years, thanks to conservationists and the marine protected status, it is still not near as healthy as it was just decades ago. Damage like this certainly doesn't help.

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