An oil spill on Australia's Great Barrier Reef would cost billions of dollars — both to clean and to deal with an anti-shipping backlash, the federal government says.
Transport Minister Anthony Albanese says the impact of an oil spill on the Great Barrier Reef would run to "billions and billions of dollars".
"Because if it happens, it's not just the direct clean-up costs. It's the cost of the campaign that says: 'We don't want ships going through the reef'," Albanese told the National Shipping Industry Conference in Melbourne on Tuesday.
"And that campaign, were there to be an incident, would be very, very real indeed, which is why we need to bear all of that in mind."
A UNESCO report released in June was highly critical of Australia's management of the Great Barrier Reef.
It said the reef could be listed as a `World Heritage site in danger' unless high-risk coastal developments including new ports in Queensland were shelved.
The national shipping conference opened on Tuesday with projections of continued shipping export growth over coming years.
Dry bulk shipping exports had grown from more than 400 million tonnes in 2000 to almost 800 million tonnes and were expected to top one billion tonnes by 2015.
Albanese said it was critical that shipping adhered to the highest environmental standards, to protect the iconic regions of the Great Barrier Reef, the Torres Strait and the Coral Sea.
The government was improving Australia's oil spill response capability, starting with a $13.5 million rollout of new equipment in Sydney, Melbourne, Devonport, Adelaide, Perth, Dampier, Darwin, Townsville and Brisbane ports over coming weeks.
Albanese said this would improve Australia's ability to clean up oil spills more effectively and in more difficult conditions.
Source: Industry Search