FEDERAL Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch has warned against a “knee-jerk reaction” in response to the mechanical failure of the bulk carrier ID Integrity near the Great Barrier Reef on Friday.
“I’m as concerned as anyone else about this,” Mr Entsch said. “There is no doubt that we’ve dodged a bullet here, but mechanical breakdowns do occasionally happen.
“We now have to be careful not to bow to a knee-jerk reaction from groups who have their own agendas, who are trying to shut down the economy of the Far North whether by banning fishing in the Coral Sea, development on Cape York or shipping through the reef.”
Mr Entsch said there were a range of actions that could help to minimise future risk.
“Firstly, we must congratulate the tugboat and emergency response crews who were involved in this outstanding recovery,” he said. “We then need to talk to them, see whether they are resourced sufficiently, find out what else they need to improve the service, and ensure that we have these services available in ports like Thursday Island, Cairns and Townsville.
“Secondly, there should be a requirement that all vessels using the Eastern Seaboard can produce a maintenance certificate to ensure they are being regularly serviced to a standard accepted by Australian authorities.
“Thirdly, the use of Reef Pilots on the inner Great Barrier Reef is a no-brainer. We must ensure that the compulsory usage of Reef Pilots continues for ships traversing the inner channel.
“Lastly, we should investigate whether it’s feasible for ships using the outer channel to travel a few nautical miles east of the current route to minimise the risk. If it’s feasible and competitive it needs to be initiated.”
Mr Entsch said that rather being viewed as a negative, this recent event had provided an invaluable opportunity to enhance existing procedures to safeguard the reef.
He added that there was no way to guarantee that there would never be a mechanical failure but the solution was not to halt shipping traffic along the Eastern Seaboard.
“You can have problems with the best-maintained mechanics, and aeroplanes – like ships – are mechanical. So if we follow their argument you may as well close down Cairns Airport because every plane that lands in Cairns has to fly over the reef,” Mr Entsch said. “Where does it end?
“Coastal traffic is absolutely imperative to the survival of our country, not just our region. It’s not just coal we’re talking about, but sugar and any goods that come in or out of ports north of Brisbane.
“These shipping lanes are the lifeblood of our economy – let’s find ways of minimising the risk rather than destroying economic opportunities.”