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Asia Minute: Chinese Ship Owner Settles Australian Claim of Environmental Disaster


Australia’s government has reached a settlement in a case involving the Great Barrier Reef, a Chinese shipping company, and extensive environmental damage. HPR’s Bill Dorman has details in today’s Asia Minute.

Nearly five and a half years ago, a Chinese coal ship rammed into a coral shoal off the northeastern coast of Australia.  The ship, the Shen Neng 1, was returning to China…carrying 65,000 tons of coal…along with 975 tons of heavy fuel oil.

Australia’s government says the ship’s captain was nearly ten miles off course when he slammed into the Douglas Shoal, part of the Great Barrier Reef.  The ship’s bottom dragged against the coral for nearly two miles, crushing it into dust.  The ship also began leaking oil.

The vessel’s owner, Shenzhen Energy Transport, refused to accept responsibility for the damages for six years….saying the reef would naturally restore itself.  The government of Australia didn’t see it that way—and threatened legal action.

This week, the two parties settled—for more than $29 million Australian, a little more than $22 million US.  Conservationists say that’s not enough.  Agence France Press quotes Greenpeace Australia as saying the settlement was “disappointing”, especially since the Australian government says the cost of cleanup will be more than triple the figure named in the settlement.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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