SYDNEY, April 24 Six Greenpeace activists
boarded a coal ship bound for South Korea near Australia's Great
Barrier Reef on Wednesday, protesting against the expansion of
the rich Australian coal industry and its impact on the World
Environmentalists say the Great Barrier Reef, a popular
tourist site worth about A$6 billion ($6.1 billion) a year to
the Australia economy, is threatened by dredging, sedimentation
and coal port and shipping development.
UNESCO will decide in June whether the reef should be listed
as a World Heritage Site in danger.
The ship MV Meister was carrying thermal coal from Abbot
Point in northern Queensland state, a port that falls within the
Great Barrier Reef heritage area, and was still in Australian
waters in the Coral Sea when it was boarded en route to Donghae
in South Korea.
"They have established a peaceful occupation of the ship,"
said Georgina Woods, a climate campaigner on board Greenpeace's
flagship, the Rainbow Warrior.
Activists launched inflatable boats from the Rainbow Warrior
and boarded the coal vessel early on Wednesday. A letter was
handed to the captain of the ship detailing their reasons for
"Ordinary people will have to stand up to stop the expansion
of coal exports and that's what Greenpeace is doing today,"
The Australian Coal Association, an advocacy body
representing the industry, said the action was dangerous and
Coal is Australia's second-largest commodity, with exports
increasing some 50 percent over the past 10 years and worth
almost A$60 billion in 2011-2012.
"We need to ensure that our sector remains internationally
competitive to ensure that Australia benefits from the
sustainable development of its coal resources," Nikki Williams,
CEO of the Australian Coal Association, said in a statement.
"The Australian people have not given Greenpeace a veto over
its economic future."
Heralded as one of the seven natural wonders of the world,
the 2,000 km (1,200 mile) Great Barrier Reef is home to 400
types of coral, 240 species of birds and 1,500 species of fish.
(Reporting By Thuy Ong; Editing by Paul Tait)