Shen Neng 1 bulk coal ship collision with the Great Barrier Reef

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On April 3, 2010 the Shen Neng 1 bulk coal ship crashed into the Great Barrier Reef.

The accident

The Shen Neng 1 was transiting from Gladstone, Queensland to China carrying a cargo of 65,000 tonnes of coal, she ran aground 70km off Great Keppel Island, Australia.[1] At the time of the grounding, Shen Neng 1 was reported to have been travelling at full speed. She was severely damaged on her port side, and a 3 km long oil slick was later reported to have been seen.[2] The ship's engine and rudder were damaged in the grounding.[3]

At the time of the grounding the ship went aground 5.8 nautical miles outside the shipping lane.[4]</ref> It is in a restricted area which forms part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, a World Heritage Site designated by UNESCO.[1]

As a result of the grounding, the fuel tanks of the vessel were punctured, allowing fuel oil to leak from the vessel. It is feared that the ship may break in two.[1] Shen Neng 1 was refloated on 12 April 2010, after forecasts of bad weather meant that the salvage operation was brought forward. There were reports that large areas of the coral reef were damaged by the ship.[5]


Two investigations were undertaken into the grounding: one by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) and the other by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB).[3] Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said that the Government of Queensland would be investigating why the ship was so far off route.[1] It was reported that the ship's owner could be fined A$1,000,000 and Shen Neng 1's captain $220,000.[2]

The ATSB despatched three investigators to Gladstone, Queensland on 4 April to collect evidence and conduct interviews. On 6 April they boarded the ship to interview the crew members and collect further evidence. The preliminary phase of the investigation is scheduled to take 28 days. A casualty co-ordinator from the AMSA boarded the ship. Three vessels were reported as giving assistance at the scene.[6]

The preliminary investigation found fatigue was the major contributor to the grounding. Prior to the grounding there were no checks to ensure fatigue was minimized by the governing authorities (AMSA).[7] A news story claimed that the ship was attempting to take a shortcut when it ran aground.[8]

The vessel was refloated on 12 April and anchored in waters near Great Keppel Island.[9] It was first thought that the ship would be taken to Gladstone to unload its cargo of 65,000 tonnes of coal.[10] However Sheng Neng 1 was taken to the calmer waters of Hervey Bay because it was determined that the damage to the ship posed a risk of it breaking apart while passing through the Port of Gladstone.[11]

The Clipper Mistral was berthed alongside the bulk carrier and using its own crane began removing 19,000 tonnes of coal on 12 May 2010.[11]

The Shen Neng 1 was then towed back to Singapore.

Charges against ship captain and chief officer on watch

On 14 April 2010 Australian Federal Police officers executed a search warrant on the vessel and arrested the ship's master and chief officer-on-watch. They faced the Gladstone Magistrates Court on 15 April 2010.[12] [13]

The ship's master was charged with liability for a vessel which caused damage to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and granted bail and allowed to leave Australia. The chief officer-on-watch was charged with the offence of being the person in charge of a vessel that caused damage to the park.[10] He was granted bail on the condition that he reside on the carrier until a more permanent bail arrangement is reached.[14]

Xuegang Wang, the seaman who was in charge of the ship at the time of the accident, pleaded guilty in a hearing at the Brisbane District Court. Wang was sentenced to 18 months jail with 3 months to be served and then on a two year good behaviour bond. The magistrate found that Wang had failed to chart the ship's position every 15 minutes after taking control. Judge Leanne Clare said that his failure to plot the ship's position amounted to "gross negligence".[15]

"It was the largest incident of damage caused by shipping to the marine park to date," she said. "He had the necessary navigational aids and the experience to use them. The need to change direction during his shift would have been obvious from the start. Yet he failed to monitor the position of the boat as required. It seems his casualness came from a misplaced confidence in an alarm system that he had not checked. Mr Wang appears to be a good man who had a very bad day."[15]

The ship's master, Jichang Wang, pleaded guilty in November 2014 a hearing in the Gladstone's Magistrates Court to the charge of causing damage to a marine park. He was ordered to pay a $25,000 fine.[16]

Articles and resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Great Barrier Reef oil disaster fear from stricken ship", BBC News Online', April 4, 2010.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Jared Owens, "Leaking ship's owners face $1m fine", The Australian, April 5, 2010.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Stranded ship 'time bomb' to Great Barrier Reef", Alert Net, April 5, 2010.
  4. "Grounding of the Ship Shen Neng 1", Australian Maritime Safety Authority, April 6, 2010.
  5. Nick Bryant, "China ship 'seriously damaged' Great Barrier Reef", BBC News, April 13, 2010.
  6. "ATSB investigates bulk carrier grounding", Australian Transport Safety Bureau, April 6, 2010.
  7. Marine Safety Investigation Report - Preliminary, Australian Transport Safety Bureau, May 3, 2010.
  8. "Ancient species discovered in Barrier Reef depths", AFP, July 15,2010.
  9. Andrew Fraser, "Great Barrier Reef island oil spill clean-up starts", The Australian, April 14, 2010.
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Fatigue a factor in Sheng Neng 1 incident", The Australian, April 15, 2010.
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Damaged Shen Neng 1 begins offloading coal", ABC News, May 13, 2010.
  12. "Two Shen Neng 1 crew charged by AFP", The Australian, April 14, 2010.
  13. "Australia arrests Chinese crewmen over reef ship", New Straits Times, April 14, 2010.
  14. "Shen Neng 1 captain granted bail over grounding", The Australian, April 15, 2010.
  15. 15.0 15.1 "Shen Neng 1's seaman jailed for reef damage", Gladstone Observer, October 27, 2012.
  16. William Rollo, "Captain fined $25k over Shen Neng oil spill", ABC News, November 14, 2010.

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External resources

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