Chinese Coal Ship Arrested for Damaging Great Barrier Reef

Australian police arrested on Wednesday two senior crew members of a Chinese coal ship which ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef, charging them with damaging the reef by failing to sail a correct course.

Chinese bulk carrier Shen Neng 1 was fully loaded and traveling at full speed on April 3 when it struck the Douglas Shoal, toward the southern end of the protected reef, which covers 346,000 sq km (133,600 sq miles) off the northeast coast, Reuters says.

The 47-year-old master is charged with liability for damage, and faces a maximum fine of 55,000 Australian dollar ($51,200).

The 44-year-old chief officer is accused of being in charge of the vessel during the grounding, and faces up to three years in prison and a fine up to AU$220,000, The Associated Press informs.

The bulk carrier is believed to have been taking an illegal shortcut when it ran aground on 3 April on its way to the port of Gladstone in Queensland.

Its hull tore a gash more than 1km (0.6 mile) long in the reef and leaked oil into waters used as a breeding ground for seabirds and turtles, BBC News reports.

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