The Australian Marine Conservation Society has expressed grave concerns after reports that the new massive gas ships taking LNG from Gladstone in the Great Barrier Reef are operating under ‘flags of convenience’.
The first consignment of liquefied natural gas was transported out of Gladstone last week aboard the Methane Rita Andrea, a flag of convenience ship registered in Bermuda.
“Unfortunately flag of convenience ships are notorious for breaching safety and environmental codes internationally,” said Felicity Wishart, AMCS Great Barrier Reef campaign director.
She added that here are already 4,000 ships crossing the Reef every year, and it is expected the number will rise to around 7,000 if all the proposed port expansions proceed.
“It only takes one of those ships to have an accident to cause irreparable damage to the Reef and the $6 billion tourism industry that relies on it,” says Wishart, adding, “Now we have the added risk of massive LNG ships loaded with highly dangerous cargo from Gladstone moving in the same waters as massive coal ships.”
She urged the government to introduce additional protections to minimise the risk of ship collisions, spills and groundings. That means limiting the number of ships, having them operate to the highest standards, a ban on ships with a record of unsafe seamanship and compulsory pilotage in Reef waters.
She added that the Shen Neng 1 grounding is a reminder of what a shipping accident can do to the Reef that still has not fully recovered from it, three years later.
“Both the Queensland and Australian governments should think twice about their plans to see major port expansions from Gladstone all the way to Cape York. We have to ask ourselves do we really need more ports, more dredging and dumping and more shipping among the unique corals and breeding grounds of the Reef,” Wishart said.
Press Release; Image: AMCS