A Chinese ship has caused outrage in Australia after it apparently strayed 7.5 miles off course through a protected marine area

The Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has called for tighter maritime laws after a Chinese bulk carrier got caught on a reef in the protected Great Barrier Reef area.

According to the Herald Sun, the Chinese tanker, the Shen Neng 1, ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef on Saturday and has been grinding against the shoals since, leading to concerns for the fragile marine environment.

Tug boats have been used to stabilise the ship, which was carrying about 950 tonnes of oil and 65,000 tonnes of coal, and although there have been some oil spillages, the threat of oil slicks has been largely contained and it is hoped the ship will be salvaged.

The Shen Neng 1 was about 7.5 miles outside the shipping lane when it ran aground near a known shortcut between the reefs.

Registering his outrage that the ship could find itself so far off course in a protected area, the Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, said, “I take any threat to the Great Barrier Reef fundamentally seriously. From where I sit, it is outrageous that any vessel could find itself 12km off course, it seems, in the Great Barrier Reef.”

Mr Rudd also said that he would consider putting more pilots on cargo vessels travelling near the Great Barrier Reef and he would listen to what maritime experts have to say, and if necessary look at tightening maritime law.

Three investigations are currently underway to see how the ship came to be so far off course.