Research ship to clarify extent of damaged reef

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Divers, sonar equipment and cameras which are towed behind a ship will be used to determine exactly how much damage a coal carrier has done to the Great Barrier Reef.

The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) is leading the investigation into the grounding of the Shen Neng 1 on Douglas Shoal, off Rockhampton, on April 3.

The Chinese-registered carrier was refloated on Monday. It is now safely anchored in waters near Great Keppel Island.

The AIMS research vessel RV Cape Ferguson, carrying a team of marine scientists, is on its way to the Shoal to begin the first comprehensive assessment of the damage.

The team will determine the scale of the physical damage and how much toxic anti-fouling paint scraped off the hull onto the reef.

Dr Negri who is leading the AIMS voyage said marine scientists would be diving with video cameras to take footage of the effects on reef organisms such as corals, sponges and algae.

"In the areas that are too deep for divers, we have specialised cameras that can be towed by the ship," he said.

Scientists will also collect for analysis samples of toxic anti-fouling paint, used to hinder the growth of algae and barnacles on ships' hulls.

"This paint usually contains toxic chemicals, including heavy metals and/or herbicides and if a ship is grounded, it usually scrapes onto the reef," he said.