AMSA chairman Leo Zussino speaks with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on the tarmac at Rockhampton Airport yesterday.
AMSA chairman Leo Zussino speaks with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on the tarmac at Rockhampton Airport yesterday. CHRIS ISON

PM labels actions as 'outrageous'

PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd has slammed the actions of the Shen Neng 1 crew after the coal carrier ran aground at Douglas Shoal on Saturday.

During a quick visit to Rockhampton yesterday morning, Mr Rudd said it was “outrageous” that a ship was so far off course in the Great Barrier Reef.

“Where I sit, it is outrageous to find any vessel (this far) off course, it seems, in the Great Barrier Reef. The practical challenge is to deal with that situation now. The practical challenge then is to bring to account those who are responsible.”

The Prime Minister and Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) chairman Leo Zussino flew over the ship yesterday morning, and were happy to see only a small amount of oil around it.

Mr Zussino said there appeared to be no threat to the Central Queensland coast at this stage.

“There’s no evidence of that at this point in time, and certainly, the professional salvors are on board and are waiting for the assessment which is looking quite promising. But certainly there’s a lot of work to be done to be able to determine the way forward to removing the vessel from the reef and getting it safely fixed up and on its way,” he said.

“Obviously the next big issue is the salvage of the vessel and the salvors are on board looking to secure the removal of the vessel, and what we did see today with the Prime Minister was that there was very little oil around the vessel. The crews have been able to maintain that as the Prime Minister has said. And certainly everyone’s working on trying to ensure that no worse case scenario happens, that we can do this and do it successfully and then look to see we can ensure nothing like this ever happens again.”

Mr Rudd greeted a waiting media pack at Rockhampton Airport, and described the steps to solving the oil spill problem.

“This remains a serious situation; it remains a serious threat to the Great Barrier Reef,” he said.

“There is obviously a lot of practical work in three or four specific areas. One, what do we do in terms of containing oil. Two, what we do in terms of the salvage of the vessel. Three, what are we doing in terms of the investigation to get to the bottom-line explanation as to find out what’s happened here and why. Four, looking at laws for the future as well.”

Part of that solution also includes the arrival of the AMSA ship Pacific Recorder from Cairns today, to assist with the salvage of the Chinese-owned coal carrier.

“The AMSA vessel the Pacific Recorder will be here, I’m advised, tomorrow to assist with practical matters concerning some booms to contain that oil which has been released. The critical question then lies in the use of that vessel to remove oil from the Chinese vessel and thereby contain the threat further.”

AMSA chairman Leo Zussino expects the spill will be a major topic of conversation at the authority’s oil spill prevention and preparedness conference in Melbourne next week.

“Spillcon is a major conference, it’s being held in Australia this year and there’ll be a lot of international people there, international experts. And of course this incident will be very topical,” he said.

Where I sit, it is outrageous to find any vessel (this far) off course in the Great Barrier Reef.