Protect Great Barrier Reef from Destructive Shipping Traffic

Great Barrier Reef

Target: Tony Abbott, Prime Minister of Australia

Goal: Ensure that increased shipping lanes doesn’t destroy the Great Barrier Reef.

A recent near-miss with a stranded cargo ship has highlighted concerns about the impact of the growing number of shipping lanes through the Great Barrier Reef. The 132-meter Thor Commander was carrying copper ingots when it reported mechanical failures and requested rescue. It was drifting just 30 km from the Perkins Reef when it was diverted away by an Australian Maritime Safety Authority tug with the help of a Chinese merchant vessel.

Conservationists have said that the incident further raises fears about the potential damage done to the Great Barrier Reef by the recent boom in the Queensland shipping industry. The Australian Marine Conservation Society expressed serious concern about proposed port expansion projects that, if completed, would nearly double the current traffic through the reef, raising the number of ships passing through annually from 4,000 to 7,000. The port expansions are due largely to the increase in coal and natural gas exports, hazardous materials to be transporting across fragile marine ecosystems.

The local authorities and mining industry claim that shipping is well regulated and the risk of accidents low, to which conservationists reference the 2010 incident in which the 230-meter Shen Neng 1, a Chinese vessel, ruptured its fuel tanks and dumped four tons of oil into the waters of the Great Barrier Reef, leaving a three kilometer scar across the reef that has yet to recover.

The Great Barrier Reef is a World Heritage Site, and the biggest single structure composed of living organisms. It is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Allowing a highway of shipping lanes to pass through this delicate ecosystem is environmentally negligent and risks irreparable damage to this beautiful place and the incredible abundance of life to which it is home. Sign the petition below and demand that the Australian government take action to adequately safeguard this world treasure.


Dear Prime Minister Abbott,

The incident with the Thor Commander cargo ship is a reminder of the great risk that the shipping industry poses to the magnificent Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef is not only an Australian icon, but a World Heritage Site, and a place of wondrous biodiversity unlike anywhere else on our planet.

The recent Thor Commander incident and the Shen Neng accident of 2010 are testaments to the current vulnerability of the Great Barrier Reef to disaster, with 4,000 ships passing through its waters each year. The projected rise of shipping rates to 7,000 vessels per year would nearly double this threat, making an ecological catastrophe that much more likely.

As Australia’s economy grows and explores different avenues of expansion, the Great Barrier Reef should not be on the bargaining table. I am urging you to take the necessary steps to provide sufficient protections for this unique natural treasure.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Mikhail Rogov via Wikimedia Commons

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