Australian maritime authorities are disputing a claim that a coal ship grounding off central Queensland was reported within five minutes.
The Shen Neng 1 ran aground on Douglas Shoal just after 5pm (AEST) last Saturday afternoon.
In a statement today the Chinese state-owned Shenzhen Energy Transport apologised for the incident saying it is cooperating with authorities.
The company says it alerted Australian authorities about five minutes after the ship ran aground but the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) disputes the claim, saying it was not told for about an-hour-and-a-half.
It then took another 25 minutes for Maritime Safety Queensland to become involved.
AMSA has asked the Chinese company to “clarify” it’s comments.
There was criticism last year that authorities took too long to act after a major oil spill off south-east Queensland.
Meanwhile, authorities are starting to pump oil from the stricken coal carrier.
They are putting safety equipment in place to reduce the risk of a further spill as they prepare to pump out the remaining fuel.
About 250 workers are on standby should any oil reach the coast.
Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) general manager Patrick Quirk says it could take days to transfer all the oil.
“This is just a part of a long process and we need to keep our eye on the short game, which is the pumping of the oil,” he said.
“The medium-term game is the refloating and what we’re going to do when we refloat her.”
Mr Quirk says the carrier is holding together.
“The salvors have put on electronic monitoring, hull-monitoring equipment and they have advised that they are detecting no further deflections of the hull, which means that the damage has stabilised,” he said.
“We’re doing a metre-by-metre check of the ship with the salvors and that’ll determine what goes into the computer programs in terms of the damage assessment reports.”
Mr Quirk says the weather conditions today are favourable.
“A bit of a wind change due Monday which we’ll need to keep our eye on, but at the moment we’re not being alarmed by the weather change,” he said.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says the oil transfer is a difficult and delicate operation.
“Anyone who thinks this is all over, red rover frankly, they’re not getting it right,” he said.
“This is going to take a lot of time, a lot of technical precision and hard work and it’s a very difficult situation still with no absolute guarantee of success.”
Meanwhile, Queensland Opposition Leader John-Paul Langbroek has criticised Premier Anna Bligh for travelling to inspect the stricken coal carrier.
Ms Bligh will today fly over the ship.
Mr Langbroek say Ms Bligh is the fourth Labor politician to go and look at the damage.
“I think it’s interesting that Anna Bligh is following the example of Kevin Rudd, [Federal Environment Minister] Peter Garrett and [Queensland Transport Minister] Rachel Nolan to be the fourth senior politician to take a plane flight over the Shen Neng 1,” he said.
“I think it’s time for the sightseeing to stop by senior politicians and let’s just let the experts get on with fixing it.”
- Reporting by Paul Robinson, Maria Hatzakis, Kerrin Binnie and Natalie Poyhonen