JOINT MEDIA RELEASE WITH HON MICHAEL KEENAN MP, MINISTER FOR JUSTICE
A joint operation between the Australian Federal Police and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority resulted in a ship’s master being convicted and fined for failing to take on a pilot prior to navigating the Great Barrier Reef.
The 66-year-old Taiwanese national plead guilty to mastering a ship that navigated without a pilot in the compulsory pilot area of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, contrary to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 (Cth).
On New Years’ Day this year, the master of the Taiwanese vessel China Steel Developer attempted to depart Australian waters through Hydrographers Passage in central Queensland — a compulsory pilotage area of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park — without a pilot on board.
The master was apprehended when the vessel returned to Newcastle.
Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt said quick responses led to the successful completion of the multi-agency operation.
“This has been a great example of quick action to protect one of our national icons. It demonstrates that the strong protections we have in place to protect the Great Barrier Reef work,” Mr Hunt said.
“The vessel was successfully halted in its voyage only 4.8 kilometres into the compulsory pilotage area so that a pilot could come on board to guide the ship safely through.
“The Australian Government introduced compulsory pilotage in 1991 to reduce the risk of ship groundings and collisions in the Great Barrier Reef.
“Since then all regulated ships are required to have pilot on board when travelling through certain areas of the Marine Park.”
“The response by the vessel tracking service Reef VTS and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority eliminated the potential for any environmental, economic and social consequences that may have occurred if the unescorted voyage had gone wrong.”
Minister for Justice Michael Keenan said the response to this incident demonstrated the significant financial and personnel resources dedicated to protecting the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
“The protection of nationally significant assets such as the Great Barrier Reef is a matter that we all take very seriously. Shipping is highly regulated in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area,” Mr Keenan said.
“I’m pleased to see relevant authorities responded quickly, ensuring the vessel had not travelled far into the compulsory pilotage area.”
The Federal Government has taken further action to protect the Great Barrier Reef with improved shipping safety guidelines as part of the North East Shipping Management Plan released last year.
Despite an increase in shipping since 1996, groundings have reduced from one per year to just three incidents in the following 18 year period.
By global standards shipping movements in the Great Barrier Reef are low. For example, on any given day there 40 to 50 ships transiting through 348,000 square kilometres of the world heritage area. By comparison, there are around 140 ship movements per day within 20 kilometres of Germany’s 11,434 square kilometre Wadden Sea World Heritage Area.