A MASTER and the first officer of bulk carrier Sea Coen have been fined $40,000 and $35,000 respectively for breaching a designated shipping area in the Great Barrier Reef.

The master and first officer pleaded guilty in the Townsville Magistrates Court last week for the offence which took place in March.

The 289-metre ship entered the reef lagoon through Palm Passage off the coast of Townsville, which is a shipping exclusion zone.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority CEO Josh Thomas said convictions were a good example of the enforcement of compliance in the World Heritage area.

He said it demonstrated strong collaboration between management services as the reef authority was notified about it through the reef vessel tracking services operated by Maritime Safety Queensland.

“Having access to technology such as vessel tracking services, ensures we can act swiftly to prevent serious incidents from damaging the marine park,” Mr Thomas said.

“The reef authority places a very high priority on investigating breaches of laws that are designed to reduce the risk to the reef from ships navigating within this World Heritage area.

“Major shipping incidents can have catastrophic consequences for the environmental, cultural and economic values of the Great Barrier Reef, and vessel operators who flout the laws will be held to account.”


In the Sea Coen incident, the actions of the master and first officer were found to have significantly increased the level of risk to the safe navigation of the ship through the Great Barrier Reef. However, no major damage was caused.

“It is vital we enforce compliance in the marine park as the measures in place are to protect the iconic Great Barrier Reef for today and future generations,” Mr Thomas said.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority said reef vessel tracking is a proven and critical service for managing ship movements and protecting the environments of the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait.

The service provides 24-hour monitoring and notifies of incidents, enabling better intervention to prevent offences and damage to the reef.

Navigation around the Great Barrier Reef and associated environmental impacts have been addressed by the local maritime community in recent weeks.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority last week issued a marine notice reminding mariners of the coastal pilotage requirements that apply within Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait waters.

And Maritime Safety Queensland recently hosted a three-day oil spill response exercise in Gladstone, noting the port’s proximity to the reef and high levels of ship activity in the area.