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Page last updated at 11:46 GMT, Sunday, 11 April 2010 12:46 UK

Australia to prosecute over Barrier Reef ship crash

The Great Barrier Reef
Bulk carriers regularly take short cuts through the Reef

Those responsible for a Chinese ship running aground on the Great Barrier Reef and leaking oil will be prosecuted, Australian authorities say.

Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said the vessel was clearly on an unlawful route and compensation would be sought for the spill.

"We'll be throwing the book at those responsible," Mr Albanese said.

In a separate case, three men have been charged with steering their cargo ship through a restricted area of the Reef.

The men, from Vietnam and South Korea, will appear in an Australian court on Monday, accused of taking their coal carrier on an unauthorised route through one of the world's most valuable marine wildlife reserves.

It is alleged that their vessel, the MV Mimosa, was not registered with the Reef Vessel Tracking System and failed to respond to attempts by the authorities to establish contact.

If found guilty, the men could face a maximum fine of more than A$200,000 ($180,000, £121,000).

Oil fear

The Chinese vessel, the Shen Nang 1, rammed into a sandbank some 70km (43 miles) off the east coast of Great Keppel Island on 4 April after straying off its permitted route.

"It is quite clear that this vessel went on a course that was unlawful," Mr Albanese told reporters after flying over the stranded ship.

"The Australian government will ensure that the full force of the law is brought to bear on those responsible," he said.

"And we will also ensure... compensation is paid with regard to the cost of cleaning up."

Salvage crews have been pumping fuel oil from the vessel, which was carrying carrying 950 tonnes of oil and about 65,000 tonnes of coal.

Inflatable booms are in place around it to contain any oil that may spill.

In the wake of these incidents, it has emerged that bulk carriers regularly take short cuts through the world heritage-listed marine park - reef "rat-runs" that cut down on voyage times and therefore save money.

The Australian government has vowed to tighten up its maritime laws in response

The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest reef system and extends for more than 2,500km.

Map of Queensland showing where ship is stranded



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SEE ALSO
Australia to remove Reef ship oil
07 Apr 10 |  Asia-Pacific
Barrier Reef route 'outrageous'
06 Apr 10 |  Asia-Pacific
Battle to stabilise Reef vessel
05 Apr 10 |  Asia-Pacific

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