The stricken Chinese coal carrier, Shen Neng 1, has arrived safely in waters off Hervey Bay in south-east Queensland.
The ship left waters off Gladstone in central Queensland yesterday, after running aground on the Great Barrier Reef near Douglas Shoal, east of Rockhampton, last month.
It is currently anchored between the Hervey Bay coastline and Fraser Island.
The Shen Neng 1 has 65,000 tonnes of coal on board and one-third of the coal will be off-loaded so it can then be towed to China.
A second ship will meet the Shen Neng 1 later this afternoon to begin unloading the 19,000 tonnes of coal so it can leave Australian waters.
Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) general manager Patrick Quirk says crews will work as quickly as they can to get the ship out of Queensland waters.
“All things being equal and if we get a lot of good breaks it would be a minimum of two weeks but it could be another week or two longer, it will depend on the weather,” Mr Quirk said.
“We want to make sure we have the minimal environmental impact so we’re not going to cut any corners. If the weather’s a bit blowy then we’ll stop discharge until the weather improves.”
Mr Quirk says the discharge of the ship’s coal will be conducted slowly and carefully.
“We certainly care about the environment and we understand that some people don’t want us there,” he said.
“But as I said, our advice to government was – in terms of getting rid of this ship out of Queensland waters – this is the best option for us.”