Australia seeks $90 million from ship owner for reef damage

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) " The Australian government told a court Tuesday that it was seeking at least 120 million Australian dollars ($90 million) from the owners of a Chinese coal ship that damaged part of the Great Barrier Reef.

Shenzhen Energy Transport was fighting the clean-up bill in the Australian Federal Court on Tuesday for Douglas Shoal, which was damaged when the Shen Neng 1 went off course and grounded in April 2010.

The Federal Court heard that the crash site was contaminated with hundreds of kilograms (pounds) of paint particles tainted with the highly-toxic, anti-fouling agent tributyltin.

Tributyltin slows the growth of aquatic organisms on ship hulls, and marine biologists say the particles need to be removed from the 40-hectare (100-acre) crash site to allow the area to recover.

The carrier's owner says the reef is self-healing and the company should not have to pay for a clean-up that was not needed.

It also disputes the testing methods that led to the detection of tributyltin in the area.

Shenzhen Energy Transport's maritime insurer, London P&I Club, said in a statement the Australian government's estimated costs of fixing the reef were unrealistic.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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