Oil spill on the Great Barrier Reef

Part of the Great Barrier Reef around Australia is in grave danger as an oil spill continues spreading. The Chinese ship known as Shen Neng 1 ran aground on the Douglas Shoals on Saturday and started leaking fuel. So far over two metric tons of oil has leaked into the ocean, forming an oil slick that is a hundred yards wide and two miles long.

To prevent the ship from excessive rocking (which would cause it to breakdown further), two tugboats were sent to the site to stabilize it. So far it appears to be working but any bad weather could upset the temporary balance that has been established. The fear is that the remaining 1,000 tons of fuel onboard could get out and cause irrevocable damage to a world heritage site.

The Great Barrier Reef is a protected site as it is the world’s largest coral reef and as such certain parts are off limits to shipping lines. The owner of the ship, Shenzhen Energy, is likely to be slapped with a fine amounting to $1 million (Australian) for drifting out of the specified shipping lane. The crew is still on the ship and will be evacuated if the situation takes a turn for the worse.

Dislodging the ship will be a lengthy process and has given authorities another thing to worry about. They fear that during that process, the ship could break apart and send more of its fuel load out. Queensland State Premier Anna Bligh said the state was getting all the expertise it could to prevent a catastrophe. Currently chemicals are being used to disperse the oil and break up the slick.