A broken-down cargo ship in waters off the Australian coast drifted out-of-control towards the Great Barrier Reef recently, threatening one of the largest and most diverse ecosystems on the planet. The Great Barrier Reef, which is also a World Heritage-listed site and a recognized maritime nature reserve, was put in jeopardy by the stricken vessel as crews on board worked to stabilize the engine and avert a potential environmental disaster.


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The bulk carrier, the Hong Kong-registered ID Integrity (oh the irony), reportedly broke down north of Cairns after it suffered “an engine breakdown”. According to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), the ship which was originally traveling from Shanghai, began to drift towards the Shark and Vema reefs on the outskirts of Australia’s most famed attraction.

At the time, AMSA said in a statement: “The crew is currently attempting to repair the engine, in the hope that the vessel will be able to resume its passage. Contingency planning is under way in case the crew cannot get the engine restarted.”

AMSA also responded by deploying a Emergency Towage Vessel (ETV) called Pacific Responder from its routine training duties in the Torres Strait. While the ship was en route, AMSA attempted to slow down the ship by releasing ballast water, allowing for a safe distance between the vessel and Shark Reef. Multiple tugs were also called in to respond to the drifting ship.

Luckily, the ID Integrity was secured and the drifting ship stabilized preventing any further drift towards reefs. It is now en route to the repair port of Townsville, but will from there be take to Cairns for further work.

Discussing the near miss, a spokesman from AMSA said, “the successful outcome from this emergency response was the result of proactive and cooperative management between AMSA and the owners of ID Integrity. The existing emergency response measures AMSA has in place were effective in managing the risk of a potential grounding and the owners reacted in an appropriate and timely manner.”

A close shave indeed, especially as it is not the first time a ship has almost crashed into the reef. In April 2010, a Chinese-registered coal carrier called The Shen Neng 1 leaked tonnes of heavy fuel oil and threatened an ecological disaster. The damage is still visible today with a 3km long scar in the reef where the vessel was stranded for nine days.

+ Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA)

via Discovery News

Images: AMSA and Paul from www.Castaways.com.au