THE Fraser Coast will not tolerate any environmental damage caused by the crippled Chinese coal carrier Shen Neng 1 – and authorities say they understand that.
Maritime Safety Queensland boss Patrick Quirk said the objective had always been to remove the ship from our waters as quickly as possible “but we won’t compromise on the safety of our people and the protection of our environment”.
“We’ll have a range of protection measures in place while the ship is under tow and when it’s in place in Hervey Bay,” he said.
Mr Quirk said two vessels would remove about 19,000 tonnes of coal from the ship, which holds about 65,000 tonnes, so it would be safe to tow overseas and the operation was likely to take at least two weeks.
While it’s unloaded, the Shen Neng 1 will be between the mainland and the World Heritage-listed Fraser Island, the planet’s biggest sand island, in a bay of water that is the only resting place in the world for humpback whales on their annual migration.
Rumours of a late change to move the anchorage further north, as requested by the Wide Bay Burnett Conservation Council, were denied.
“There’s been no change to the anchorage,” he said.
“If we went any further north we are exposing ourselves to the swell and that’s why we’re coming to Hervey Bay – to get out of the swell.”
Two tugs, the Austral Salvor and the Tom Tough, will be towing the Shen Neng 1, which ran aground on a reef while illegally traversing the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, from Gladstone to Hervey Bay.
Mr Quirk said as soon as the cargo was removed, the Shen Neng 1 would either be taken overseas by a deep sea tug or taken back to Gladstone to wait for the tug.
Fraser Coast mayor Mick Kruger said authorities had been keeping in contact with him since it was announced 10 days ago that the Shen Neng would be towed to the region.
“It gives you some comfort to say that they’re doing everything possible to achieve the result that we’re all looking for; that nothing will go wrong,” he said.
“They’ve got all the right people, they’ve got all the maritime safety people they require and they’ve also got any emergency ships and boats and equipment that is required if anything did go wrong.”
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