SYDNEY, Sept 19 (Reuters) – Australia on Monday reached a A$39.3 million ($29.66 million) out-of-court settlement with the owners of a Chinese coal carrier that ran aground in 2010 on the Great Barrier Reef.
The settlement, dismissed by an environmental group as not enough, is less than a third of what the Australian government was seeking from the ship’s owner – Shenzhen Energy Transport Co – for remediation costs after the 225-metre long Shen Neng 1 ran aground on the reef’s Douglas Shoal.
The fully-laden carrier was en route to China when it sailed outside the shipping lane and ran aground on April 3, 2010. Anti-fouling paint that peeled off the ship contained a highly toxic component, tributyltin, that is now banned from use.
The funds from the settlement will allow the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to begin removing anti-fouling paint and rubble from coral, Australia Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said.
“The paint also contains copper and zinc,” he said. “Impact to marine life on the seafloor could potentially last for many decades if the toxic anti-fouling paint remains in place.”
While Greenpeace reef campaigner Shani Tager called the settlement “woefully inadequate” given the level of damage to the reef, Shenzhen Energy Transport Co’s insurer, The London P&I Club, described the settlement as “sufficient and appropriate” as much of the shoal had recovered naturally since the incident.
In a statement, the insurer expressed regret over the Shen Neng 1 incident and said it had always wanted to reach a fair and justifiable settlement.
In a previous statement, the London P&I Club described the government’s clean up estimates, which ranged from A$70 million to A$194 million, as “unsubstantiated and unrealistic”.
($1 = 1.3249 Australian dollars) (Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Himani Sarkar)
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