Great Barrier Reef Maritime Accident
One of the most potentially ecologically devastating maritime shipping accidents in modern history happened Saturday just off the coast of Australia. The 755-foot Chinese bulk carrier, the Shen Neng 1, carrying about 65,000 metric tons of coal, ran aground at full speed Saturday night on Douglas Shoals.
The shoals are located 43 miles off the east coast of Great Keppel Island in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. This park is an ecologically protected part of the reef where shipping is prohibited by environmental law. Queensland Premier Anna Bligh’s government was investigating the maritime accident trying to discover how the ship could stray nine miles outside the shipping channel.
Ecologically Devastating Maritime Accident
“The vessel is in a restricted zone of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park – these are zones that are off limits to shipping,” she told reporters. Environmentalists have been warning the government that the shipping lane was located too close to the world famous marine park. It’s becoming a “coal highway” they protested, and they correctly predicted a ship accident like this happening.
This has been a favorite tourist resort with its pristine waters and recreational fishing off the coast of Queensland state. Maritime Safety Queensland general manager Patrick Quirk said the ship accident caused severe damage to the port side of the ship and said, “At one stage last night, we thought the ship was close to breaking up,” he told reporters.
“We are still very concerned about the ship.”A salvage contract has already been signed, Quirk said. “It is in danger of actually breaking a number of its main structures and breaking into a number of parts.” Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett, said authorities from his office had worked through the night to assess the damage this ship accident would have on the environment.
“The government is very conscious of the importance of the Great Barrier Reef environment and ensuring that impacts on its ecology are effectively managed,” Garrett said in a statement. A leading Queensland environmental group, The Capricorn Conservation Council, said they fear this maritime accident may be a sign of things to come.
Ian Herbert, the group’s vice president, said that if the ship breaks up, “it would devastate the local ecosystems”. He added “There are corals surrounding some of these islands that are very special.” Fortunately, there have not as yet been any reports of injury or death to the 23 seamen aboard the Shen Neng 1.
This is a good example of a potential injury claim under the Jones Act, also known as Merchant Seaman Protection and Relief 46 USCS. Had the seamen been citizens or permanent resident aliens of the United States, and if there is an injury, they would be eligible to be defended in court by a maritime attorney to collect damages against the employer.
The Act states, in part, “Any seaman who shall suffer personal injury in the course of his employment may, at his election, maintain an action for damages at law, with the right of trial by jury, and in such action all statutes of the United States modifying or extending the common-law right or remedy in cases of personal injury to railway employees shall apply; and in case of the death of any seaman as a result of any such personal injury the personal representative of such seaman may maintain an action for damages at law with the right of trial by jury,”