The master of a Chinese coal carrier, which sailed into a restricted section of the Great Barrier Reef, has been fined A$8000.
In handing down his sentence in February, Queensland magistrate Ian Cheetham said Chih-Ming Lu, a senior master with more than 30 years’ experience, had displayed “reckless behaviour”.
Defence barrister, Paul Santone, said his client had left Mackay under the belief a pilot would be joining him by helicopter before reaching the restricted area. He said when Capt Lu was notified he had crossed into the area he “responded quickly” by immediately turning around. Magistrate Cheetham, acknowledged Lu has pleaded guilty “at the first possible opportunity”. He said Lu was aware of his obligations as he had travelled through the passage with a pilot on a number of previous occasions. “He says he was uncertain as to where the line was,” he said.
“He did not stop the vessel and wait for a pilot but rather proceeded forward. I take into account that it was reckless behaviour on his behalf because he knew the line existed and he was reckless to when he might cross it.”
According to the statement of facts, the 288-metre China Steel Developer left the north Queensland city of Mackay on New Year’s Day when it approached a section of reef known as Hydrographer’s Passage. Large ships are prohibited from navigating this section of the reef without a pilot, with the maximum fine totalling A$85,000.
Captain Lu, a 66-year-old Taiwanese national, pleaded guilty to the strict liability offence of navigating a vessel through the compulsory pilotage area of the Great Barrier Reef without a pilot on board, contrary to s59B(1) of Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act (1975). The offence carries a maximum fine of 500 penalty units — valued at about A$85,000.