Reef col­li­sion course nar­rowly avoided

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - AN­GELIQUE PAT­TER­SON

THE near-miss of a bulk car­rier which drifted per­ilously close to Osprey Reef off Port Dou­glas last week has high­lighted the ur­gent need for more than one emer­gency tug­boat.

The Hong Kong car­rier ID Iden­tity lost power around 290km north­east of Port Dou­glas last Fri­day in deep water and floated over the top of Shark Reef the fol­low­ing day - avoid­ing a col­li­sion with Osprey Reef by sheer luck.

The Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment’s emer­gency re­sponse tow ves­sel Pa­cific Re­spon­der was un­der­go­ing main­te­nance in the Tor­res Strait, leav­ing it to a com­mer­cial ves­sel to come to the ini­tial aid of the stricken ID Iden­tity.

Aus­tralian Reef Pi­lots chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Si­mon Mey­jes said there was no pi­lot on board the bulk car­rier be­cause it is not com­pul­sory un­less ne­go­ti­at­ing the Great Bar­rier Reef and the emer­gency ser­vices were lucky there was no col­li­sion.

“There’s only one sig­nif­i­cant emer­gency re­sponse sta­tion to look af­ter the north­ern reef area and at the time of the call­out it was de­ployed in the Tor­res Strait,” he said.

“It took more than two days to get to the site and I don’t think we can af­ford that sort of de­lay in an emer­gency re­sponse, the au­thor­i­ties need to have a re­think about re­sources.

“Us­ing an emer­gency re­sponse ves­sel for other pur­poses which doesn’t make it re­ally avail­able should be given more thought - hav­ing a mul­ti­pur­pose ve­hi­cle is fine to save money but at what po­ten­tial cost.”

If the ship had been trav­el­ling the in­ner side of the GBR it would have been com­pul­sory to have a pi­lot on board.

Ear­lier this year a ship trav­el­ling the in­ner route also lost power but had a pi­lot who man­aged the sit­u­a­tion.

“Yes, there is in­creased traf­fic but sim­ply in­creas­ing com­pul­sory pi­lotage ar­eas within and around the reef would go a long way to pre­vent­ing these types of in­ci­dents,” Mr Mey­jes said.

“We can pro­vide a pi­lot­ing ser­vice all the way from Pa­pua New Guinea to any east coast port if cus­tomers choose to use our ser­vice when it’s not com­pul­sory.

“The av­er­age Aus­tralian pi­lot is a guy who has about 30 years nav­i­ga­tional ex­pe­ri­ence on the reef and knows it like the back of his hand.”

This lat­est in­ci­dent has high­lighted the en­vi­ron­men­tal risk posed by an in­crease in traf­fic in the Great Bar­rier Reef, how

ever Mr Mey­jes said with proper man­age­ment the risk is min­i­mal.

“The best way to man­age a ves­sel is in­side the GBR, in calm water and shal­low enough to put an an­chor out,” he said.

“What we’ve seen over the week­end with the ship adrift and the res­cue a long way away, it was at the mercy of the weather and it was sheer luck it didn’t end up on the outer reef.

“I couldn’t even con­tem­plate if it washed ashore on Rib­bon Reef for ex­am­ple, all the oil on the water would’ve been sev­eral hun­dred tonnes and you couldn’t clean it up there with strong wind warn­ings - that oil would’ve spread ev­ery­where.

“It would have not been a good out­come for your econ­omy in the area and dive tourism go­ing off the

GBR.”

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