Shipping incidents around the Great Barrier Reef are rising - environmental groups express concern
Environmental groups and marine pilots have expressed concern at an increase in shipping incidents around the Great Barrier Reef, following the breakdown of a bulk carrier in the Coral Sea on Friday.
The Danish owned, Hong Kong registered vessel ID Integrity was en-route to Townsville to load sugar when it broke down 175 nautical miles north-east of Cairns.
The World Wildlife Fund's Richard Leck says it was "pure luck that we didn't have a major disaster on our hands" considering the vessel's proximity to the reef.
Mr Leck is calling for better shipping management practices to be put in place before any further expansion of the industry.
"The current level of ship traffic is not being managed safely and if you are going to dramatically increase that number of ships through which is what all forecasts are saying, then you are going to dramatically increase that risk."
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman says an increase in shipping traffic does not have to equate to an increase in incidents and says Federal authorities have the situation under control.
"Just because there are more ship movements, doesn't mean we are going to have more accidents".
Australian Reef Pilots chief executive officer Simon Meyjes says near misses are increasingly common and it is only a matter of time before a major environmental disaster hits the Great Barrier Reef.
"This is the third similar incident in approximately the last month in north Queensland waters" he said.
Mr Meyjes is calling for designated shipping areas and areas where pilots are mandatory to be reassessed.
"I think it's time that all stakeholders have another good look at how we manage these risks in terms of what are the designated shipping areas and what the designated pilotage areas."
Townsville Port Chairman Ross Dunning says they have dispatched of one of their tugs to assist the vessel and it may take the ID Integrity four or five days to reach Townsville Port.
Mr Dunnings says steps are being taken to ensure the vessel doesn't pose any further threat to the reef while under tow.
"I can assure you that any threat or any risk is being carefully considered before any action is taken."