Cracked coal ship on the Barrier Reef

 A ship carrying more than 67 000 tonnes of coal has been discovered to have a cracked hull.

The Liberian registered vessel Newlead Venetico, which is now anchored off Hay Point near Mackay, has already raised concerns with the Greens called for the ship to be emptied immediately and permanent repairs to be carried out before it heads to China.

"The idea that this vessel may be allowed to leave for China with only a temporary slap and patch fix is disgraceful, and could pose a grave risk to our World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef," Greens senator  Larissa Waters said.

"As we’ve seen with recent ship spills off the coasts of New Zealand and Christmas Island, just one grounding can be an ecological disaster for the entire area.

"If we continue with the Government’s plan to turn the Great Barrier Reef into a coal and gas highway, we will risk the health and World Heritage status of our Reef for fossil fuel exports.

According to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (ASMA) a meeting will be held today to assess if repairs need to be made to the hull.

"One of two things are likely to happen – the ship will pass muster and it’ll be cleared to leave, or it’ll be forced to unload and undergo more permanent repairs," the AMSA spokesman told AAP on Thursday.

The recent expansion plans for the Hay Point and Abbot Point coal terminals also drew fire from the Greens.

 "(Federal environment minister) Tony Burke’s clear responsibility is to protect the Great Barrier Reef and he cannot claim to do that unless he rejects the Abbot Point coal expansion," Waters said in a statement.

"Anna Bligh’s Labor Government proclaims that Abbot Point will create jobs, but she never seems to mention that it will destroy tens of thousands more jobs that rely on a healthy Great Barrier Reef — in tourism and fisheries — and on a healthy Murray Darling system."

The Greens also called on the expansions to be rejected because they represented a “fossil fuel fixation” and contradicted efforts to tackle the “climate crisis”.

The Queensland Resources Council welcomed the expansions and said they represented an industry “on the front foot to secure critical infrastructure”.

BHP Billiton recently announced that it would donate funds to protect the Barrier Reef.

Currently the Great Barrier Reef is at risk of losing its world heritage status, with the World Heritage Committee noting "extreme concern" over the approval of LNG developments, according to the ABC.

BHP is amongst a number of coal miners looking to expand port facilities at Hay Point and Abbot Point, as well as building new ports at Dudgeon Point and Wiggins Island.

BHP claims that these new works at Abbot Point will not affect the Barrier Reed, adding that it is "finalising an agreement to provide substantial funding” to a private group known as the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

The miner has previously donated more than $3 million to the Foundation, however it declined to state the amount it has provided for this most recent donation.

The Foundation’s chairman, John Schubert, is also a director of BHP Billiton. 

The ship’s fate is to be decided today.


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