A Master and the First Officer of a 289-metre bulk carrier, the Sea Coen, have been convicted and fined $40,000 and $35,000 respectively after pleading guilty for exiting a designated shipping area within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
The Master and the First Officer pleaded guilty in the Townsville Magistrates Court on 21 June 2022 for Prohibited Conduct in a Zone, Section 38BA of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act, as the ship entered the reef lagoon through Palm Passage –– offshore of Townsville –– which is a shipping exclusion zone.
The incident occurred in March 2022 and the fines incurred were ordered to be taken from the $45,000 cash bail held for each of the defendants.
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Chief Executive Officer Josh Thomas said the court outcome was a good example of enforcing compliance in the Marine Park. It demonstrated the strong collaboration between management agencies, as the Reef Authority was notified about this incident through the Reef Vessel Tracking Services operated by Maritime Safety Queensland.
“Having access to technology such as vessel tracking services, ensures we can act swiftly to prevent serious incidents from damaging the Marine Park,” Mr Thomas said.
“The Reef Authority places a very high priority on investigating breaches of laws that are designed to reduce the risk to the Reef from ships navigating within this World Heritage Area.
“Major shipping incidents can have catastrophic consequences for the environmental, cultural and economic values of the Great Barrier Reef, and vessel operators who flout the laws will be held to account.”
In case of the Sea Coen, the actions of the Master and First Officer were found to have significantly increased the level of risk to the safe navigation of the ship through the Great Barrier Reef, though no major damage was caused.
“It is vital we enforce compliance in the Marine Park as the measures in place are to protect the iconic Great Barrier Reef for today and future generations,” Mr Thomas said.
Reef vessel tracking is a proven and critical service for managing ship movements and protecting the environments of the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait. The service notifies incidents when they occur, and also provides 24-hour monitoring, enabling intervention to prevent offences and damage to the Reef from occuring in a timely manner.
Members of the public can also help protect the Reef by reporting suspected illegal activity in the Marine Park by calling the 24-hour hotline 1800 380 048 or emailing an incident report at www.gbrmpa.gov.au, all reports are investigated.