Salvage crews in Australia are engaged in the delicate task of pumping close to 950 tones of heavy engine oil off a Chinese coal carrier that ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef.
The vessel ripped into Douglas Shoal, a World Heritage-listed reef park off northern Queensland, at the weekend.
One side of the ship has been badly damaged and a fuel tank has ruptured.
Peter Garrett is Australia’s Environment Minister:
“ I am very hopeful that the operation can be conducted successfully, that will significantly lower the threshold of risk but there is still the possibility that it may take longer and there may be issues that arise as they get the oil of the vessel.”
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd flew over the stricken Shen Neng 1, which was off course and far from approved shipping lanes.
Beijing has sought to dilute the growing anger over the incident by expressing its concern over any potential harm to the reef.
The three to four tones of oil that spilled from the bulk carrier has already been dispersed by chemicals sprayed on the water.
Once the oil has been removed an operation to shift the ship off the sandbank will begin.