A legal battle between Australia’s Federal Government and the Chinese government-owned shipping company that is blamed for the worst Great Barrier Reef grounding began on Tuesday.
Shenzhen Energy Transport was the owner of the bulk carrier Shen Neng 1 that ran aground on April 3, 2010. It was 10 kilometers (six miles) outside the shipping lane when it hit the reef, puncturing its fuel tanks and leaking four tonnes of oil into the ocean. The ship was refloated from Douglas Shoal 12 days later.
Oil spilled during the grounding was cleaned up immediately, but six years after the incident the repair works to fix hull coating left on the coral when the off-course ship gouged a three-kilometer (1.8 mile) scar have not begun.
The Federal Court heard that the site is contaminated with hundreds of kilograms of paint particles tainted with the highly toxic anti-fouling agent TBT.
The shipping company claims the reef is self-healing, and the company should not have to pay for a clean-up that is not needed.
It has asked the court to cap the damages bill at A$23 million ($17.5 million), but the Commonwealth has told the court it estimates it will cost $120 million ($92 million) to fix the reef next year. Shenzhen argues that the delay in fixing the reef after the April 3, 2010, incident has added to the cost.
Shenzhen Energy Transport's insurer, London P&I Club, said in a statement the Australian government's estimated costs of fixing the reef were unrealistic.
The captain of the ship, Jichang Wang, and the ship’s second in charge Wang Xuegang will be called to give evidence. The ships chief engineer will also give evidence along with marine scientists.
Wang was fined $25,000 in Gladstone Magistrates Court four years ago, and Xuegang was sentenced to three months in jail.