A foreign shipping company and the chief officer of one of its vessels have been convicted for dumping garbage in the Great Barrier Reef.
The Liberian-flagged bulk carrier Iron Gate ditched the equivalent of a 120-litre household garbage bin full of food waste into the marine park in 2018.
The vessel was sailing between Brisbane and Gladstone when the chief officer approved the discharge of garbage overboard about 24km south east of Lady Elliot Island.
The action was prosecuted by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) and the chief officer and company were convicted in Brisbane Magistrates Court on Friday last week.
Fines against both parties totalled $6600.
AMSA general manager of operations Allan Schwartz said the authority took a zero tolerance approach to shipping pollution.
“Australians and tourists alike visit Lady Elliot Island to swim with manta rays and turtles – not blended food waste from merchant ships,” Mr Schwartz said.
“We take a zero-tolerance approach to pollution from shipping and that is why, after detecting this breach during a routine inspection of Iron Gate in 2018, we detained the ship and later charged the chief officer and company, Kairasu Shipping S.A.”
Mr Schwartz said the conviction would affect the company’s reputation.
“Dumping garbage into the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef isn’t something you want on your professional record,” he said.
“These convictions should serve as a reminder to other industry operators that in Australia, we make sure polluters pay.”
Under the Protection of the Sea Act 1983, food waste cannot be discharged within 22km from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park boundary.
The reef is one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
It is highly vulnerable and over the past 30 years, has lost half its coral cover, pollution has caused deadly starfish outbreaks and global warming has produced coral bleaching, according to the World Wide Fund For Nature Australia.