BRISBANE, Australia — A coal carrier that ran aground and leaked about 3 tons of oil on the Great Barrier Reef was refloated Monday after being stuck for more than a week.
The 755-foot Shen Neng 1 was successfully lifted off the coral reef after crews spent three days pumping heavy fuel oil from the stricken vessel to lighten it.
Salvage crews planned to tow the vessel to an anchorage area near Great Keppel Island, 38 nautical miles away.
Authorities were hoping to move the ship before storms forecast for Tuesday hit.
The Shen Neng 1 slammed into a shoal on April 3, and coral shredded part of its hull, causing a leak of about 3 tons of oil. That oil was dispersed by chemical sprays and is believed to have caused little or no damage to the reef.
The Australian Federal Police, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority were investigating alleged breaches of the law in the accident.
The grounding forced a review of shipping regulations in the fragile area. Queensland state Premier Anna Bligh vowed Monday to sharply increase penalties on ships causing oil spills.
Bligh said the maximum penalty for corporations would increase from 1.75 million Australian dollars ($1.64 million) to AU$10 million, and individuals would face fines of AU$500,000 — up from AU$350,000.
"This increase in penalties will send a message to the thousands of ship crews who pass through Queensland waters that nothing but the greatest attention to safety and care will be tolerated," Bligh said. The legislation will be introduced to state parliament this week.
The proposed new penalties are the latest sign that authorities are serious about stepping up protection of the fragile reef.
On Monday, three crewmen from another boat that allegedly entered restricted reef waters on April 4 appeared in Townsville Magistrates Court on charges of entering a prohibited zone of the reef without permission.
The South Korean master and two Vietnamese officers of the Panama-flagged coal boat MV Mimosa were granted bail and ordered to reappear Friday. They face maximum fines of 220,000 Australian dollars ($205,000).
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