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Oil slick alert near the Great Barrier Reef

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Oil slick alert near the Great Barrier Reef

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Salvage teams are attempting to prevent hundreds of tonnes of oil leaking from a stranded Chinese ship that has run aground off north-eastern Australia near the Great Barrier Reef.

Aircraft are spraying dispersant around the Shen Nang I amid fears the bulk coal carrier – which has 950 tonnes of oil on board – may break up.

The vessel is located 70 kilometres east of Great Keppel Island offshore from the city of Rockhampton.

So far the ship has discharged only small amounts of oil but environmentalists say a major spillage would devastate ecosystems in the coral reef.

The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s biggest reef system and stretches for more than 2,500 kilometres.