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Rena and Pacific Adventurer timely reminders of risks ahead for Queensland

Oil slick on Queensland beach from Pacific Adventurer

The twin coastal shipping tragedies of the leaking container ship in the Bay of Plenty and the current trial of the owners of the Pacific Adventurer whose oil damaged Moreton Island beaches in March 2009 should give Queenslanders pause to re-consider the direction the state government is taking the Queensland economy, according to the Queensland Greens.

‘The massive expansion of coal and gas development across the state is going to lead to a massive increase in shipping through Queensland coastal waters,’ Queensland Greens spokesperson Libby Connors said on Thursday.

‘The state government has already approved dredging of sea grass meadows in a Dugong Sanctuary for port expansions to facilitate the increase in coal and gas exports.

‘The plan is to increase shipping volumes out of Gladstone fourfold over the next 30 to 40 years.

‘There are also planned extensions for the Mackay ports and Abbot Point near Bowen that similarly involve trebling and even 7-fold increases in export cargo volumes.

‘To put this into perspective, in 2008 1417 vessels managed Gladstone’s 78 million tonnes of cargo.

‘Assuming vessel capacity remains the same – and Queensland’s shallow waters cannot cope with deep draft container ships – we could have 5600 vessels per annum entering and exiting Gladstone Harbour alone in the next couple of decades.

‘Risk assessment by the LNG companies acknowledges that the size of LNG tankers will require piloting through the narrow limits of Gladstone port and that safety will require all shipping stop while they enter and egress.

‘The government has already committed to piloting all vessels through Great Barrier Reef waters owing to recent accidents but the reality is that this volume of shipping exposes our coastline to greater risks from maritime disasters.

‘There are so many grounds on which an economy based on oil and gas extraction is the wrong direction for this state.

‘Our rich, shallow coastal waters add to our water and soil resources as too precious to risk for this short-term industry.’

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