The Guardian August 14, 2002


Government to blame for reef damage

The grounding of the bulk carrier Doric Chariot on the world 
heritage Great Barrier Reef is just further proof of the damage that the 
Federal Government shipping policy is doing to our marine environment, says 
the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA).

The owner, master and second mate of the foreign flagged Doric 
Chariot have been charged over the grounding, a sad indictment of the 
Federal Government's policy of promoting foreign shipping at the expense of 
the Australian maritime industry.

"It was obvious to all of us involved in the rescue operation that no-one 
on board was paying attention", said Peter Lamond, one of around a dozen 
MUA salvage crew involved in the emergency response and the freeing of the 
vessel from the reef in recent days.

The 73,000 ton Doric Chariot ran aground on July 29, burying its 
hull four metres into the reef.

The MUA was vocal throughout the grounding, warning about the damage the 
Federal Government policy of opening our coast to more and more substandard 
ships of shame was causing to our environment.

"Our concerns were valid", said MUA Southern Queensland Branch Secretary, 
Mick Carr.

"Divers, salvage crew and environmentalists have all confirmed the huge 
wreckage the grounding has done to some 3500 square metres of coral and 
marine life. There is now special concern over the affect the anti-fouling 
paint from hull of ship is going to have in the long term.

"In the meantime Australia is stuck with the clean-up operation while the 
vessel and its owners will escape with token fines", said Mr Carr.

"Once again the professionalism of Australian maritime workers' response 
teams has been crucial in the emergency towage operation to free the vessel 
from the reef. But if the Howard Government had its way we'd have poorly 
trained guest workers doing this job too."

The Doric Chariot was a Greek Flag vessel with a Filipino crew of 
convenience and Greek officers. It had sailed from Hay Point, near Mackay, 
on way to India with a load of coal when the grounding off Cairns occurred.

Charges have also been laid this week against the owners and master of a 
Panamanian-registered chemical tanker, the Botany Trust, over an oil 
spill in the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Mackay, in July 2000.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority carried out an extensive two-year 
international investigation to identify the vessel responsible.

The oil released from the tanker created a slick about 300 metres wide and 
three nautical miles long.

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