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Australian PM Says Chinese Ship Disaster Outrageous

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says it was "outrageous" that a Chinese coal ship could sail far off course and run aground on a sandbar in the Great Barrier Reef marine park.

Mr. Rudd flew over the ship Tuesday with maritime safety officials. He said he would investigate why the accident occurred.

Australian Greens party leader Bob Brown has called for a review of shipping routes and more intense monitoring of ships passing through the area. Local experts say cargo ships routinely take a shortcut through the reef in an effort to save time and money on fuel.

The coal ship Sheng Neng 1, owned by a subsidiary of China's state-run COSCO shipping company, ran aground off the Queensland coast Saturday. The Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest coral reef and a United Nations World Heritage site, is a major tourist attraction and home to hundreds of thousands of species of marine life.

Salvage teams onboard the vessel are preparing to pump the remaining oil from the ship to another boat before trying to refloat the vessel. They have placed a boom around it to contain the spilled oil.

Maritime authorities say it is unlikely that the vessel will break up spilling 975 tons of fuel near the reef.

The ship's Chinese owners could face fines of up to $1 million because the vessel was outside shipping lanes set up to protect the reef.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.