The Taiwanese master of the bulk carrier China Steel Developer has been arrested in Australia.
Surnamed Lu, the master has been detained on charges of sailing through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park without a pilot.
This offence carries a maximum fine of A$85,000 ($66,000).
It is alleged that the vessel sailed through Hydrographers Passage near Mackay on New Year’s Day without a pilot, as required by Australian law.
ABC News reports that the ship is believed to have carried a cargo of coal to China before returning to Australia last week.
Lu was arrested on Saturday and will appear in Newcastle Court on Monday.
In 2010, a Chinese bulk coal carrier, the Shen Neng 1, ran aground in the Great Barrier Reef after veering outside a shipping lane. The grounding caused a heavy fuel oil leak that spanned four kilometers and carved a scar into Douglas Shoal.
The scar is roughly three kilometers (1.9 miles) long and 250m (820ft) wide. The anti-fouling coating from the vessel’s hull is hindering regrowth of coral at the site, and it is expected to be 10 to 20 years before the reef returns to the state it was in before the incident.
In that incident, the first mate was jailed for three months and the master was fined A$25,000 ($19,000). Around 4,500 ships pass through the Great Barrier Reef each year. Picture source: Australian Reef Pilots.