Australian police have arrested three men after a bulk carrier illegally entered the Great Barrier Reef, just days after another ship ran aground and leaked tonnes of oil at the world-famous site.
Police said one man from South Korea and two from Vietnam will appear before magistrates after the Panama-flagged MV Mimosa sailed through a restricted area of the world heritage-listed marine park without permission last week.
"Federal agents... Executed a search warrant on the vessel yesterday at Bowen, Queensland", said a statement released today. "Navigational equipment and charts were seized and the three men were arrested".
Authorities pledged to probe claims ships were using the ecological treasure as a short-cut after China's Shen Neng 1 strayed off-course and crashed into a shoal at full speed last week, leaking tonnes of oil.
Emergency teams are now engaged in the delicate task of pumping nearly 1,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil from the stricken, 230-metre carrier, which is not expected to be refloated and towed away for several days.
Police said The MV Mimosa used an unidentified shipping route in a region between the tourist hotspots of Magnetic Island and the Whitsunday Island, did not register with authorities and ignored attempts to make contact.
The maximum penalty is a $ 220,000 fine. Australia is on the brink of a resources export boom to Asia, meaning an increase in the number of ships using the country's ports.