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It’s been 5 years – no cleanup of “urgent” Shen Neng grounding contamination

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Larissa Waters 26 May 2015

Senator WATERS: Just quickly, with respect to the Shen Neng clean-up, it has been five years now since the Shen Neng ran into Douglas Shoal, obviously doing huge damage. My understanding is that tributyltin, the TBT anti-fouling paint, is still in situ. Why has no clean-up effort been started to remove that TBT yet?

Dr Reichelt: We have documented this several times now, and confirm what you say. The paint is still there in concentrated depressions in the sea floor. It is a toxic capped TBT paint. We are in the middle of a legal action against the ship owner, the Shenzhen Energy Company. We are seeking for them to meet the costs of the cleanup. It is our view, as briefed to the minister, and it is the minister's view that it should be done as soon as we possibly can. It is urgent. It is preventing the natural recovery processes in that 50-plus hectares of sea floor.

Senator WATERS: Why is GBRMPA not cleaning that up and then seeking reimbursement from the company? Why are you letting it sit there?

Dr Reichelt: It is a resourcing issue. It would be a substantial cost, beyond the capacity of our budget.

Senator WATERS: In what order?

Dr Reichelt: It would exceed $50 million.

Senator WATERS: Have you sought to have additional support from government to clean up that toxic mess?

Dr Reichelt: The litigation that is underway comes under the head of nationally significant with AttorneyGeneral's. It remains our best avenue to achieve those funds. It is an issue for the authority. We have repeatedly made it clear through the courts to the company and the insurers, Protection and Indemnity Club, London, of our wish. There is an insurance system for shipping accidents, and so we are seeking that pathway as well.

Senator WATERS: Thank you very much.

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