Crews refloat reef collision ship
Salvage teams remove Chinese ship that had run aground on Great Barrier Reef.
Last Modified: 13 Apr 2010 02:10 GMT
Days after Shen Neng 1 ran aground, the crew of another bulk carrier were charged with trespass [AFP]

Salvage teams in Australia have successfully refloated a bulk coal carrier more than a week after it struck part of the Great Barrier Reef, averting a possible environmental disaster off the northeastern state of Queensland.

Crews moved the China-registered Shen Neng 1 carrier on Monday without adding to the two-tonnes of heavy fuel oil spilled onto the reef when the ship ran aground on April 3, officials said.

Patrick Quirk, general manager of Marine Safety Queensland, confirmed that no more oil had been lost and said the 230-meter ship was being towed to an area east of Great Keppel Island, the Australian news agency AAP reported.

"The refloat was a success. Salvors spent an hour-and-a-half assessing the vessel's stability and watching for any evidence of further oil spills," he said was quoted as saying.

"Our intention has always been to keep oil loss to a minimum so we could take it to safe anchorage."

Most of the 970 tonnes of heavy fuel oil from the vessel had been pumped out before it was refloated on Monday.

Divers will now assess the damage to the ship's hull.

Short-cut claims

Travelling at full speed and in broad daylight the Shen Neng 1 struck the Douglas Shoals section of the reef after straying off a recognised shipping lane, rupturing a fuel tank and causing a 3km-long slick.

Australian officials have accused the ship's crew of taking an illegal route through the reef, listed as a World Heritage site, promising to probe claims that ships were taking a short-cut.

On Monday, three crew members from a Panama-flagged bulk carrier were charged with illegally entering a restricted part of the reef, and are due to reappear in court in the northeastern city of Townsville on Friday.

South Korean Gang Chun Han, 63, and Vietnam's Tran Tan Thanh and Nguyen Van Sang face maximum fines of A$225,000 ($205,000), after allegedly taking the MV Mimosa through the reef.

Environmental laws bar shipping in the area in order to protect what is the world's largest coral reef.

The Great Barrier Reed sprawls along some 3,000 kilometers of Australia coast, and is home to thousands of marine species and a major tourist attraction.

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