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By NBF News
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A Chinese ship has run aground off north-eastern Australia, sparking an alert of an oil leak into the Great Barrier Reef.

The Shen Neng I, carrying 950 tonnes of oil, ran aground 70km (43 miles) off the east coast of Great Keppel Island.

Oil patches have been seen and officials said there were real concerns the ship may break apart, causing a greater spillage.

Conservationists say they fear for a major accident in the future.

The Shen Neng I, with a crew of 23, was carrying about 65,000 tonnes of coal to China from the Australian port of Gladstone.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said the ship was in danger of breaking up.

“We are now very worried we might see further oil discharged from this ship,” she said.

Maritime Safety Queensland general manager Patrick Quirk said: “It is in danger of actually breaking a number of its main structures and breaking into a number of parts.”

Capricorn Conservation Council spokesman Ian Herbert told the Australian Associated Press he feared the latest incident was “a sign of things to come”.

“We are outraged that no marine pilot is required on ships between Gladstone and Cairns,” he said.

The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest reef system and extends for more than 2,500km.