Korean nationals fined for entering SS Yongala shipwreck
6 January 2012
Two South Korean nationals received fines after pleading guilty in the Townsville Magistrates Court today to charges related to offences under the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976.
The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecution informed the court that Mr Seonjin PARK and Ms Hyerim JEON had on the 4 January 2012 made illegal dives inside of the wreck of the SS Yongala located in Great Barrier Reef waters south of Townsville.
Mr Park, 27, received a $1000 fine and Ms Jeon, 25, a fine of $750.
Crew members from a Townsville based dive company ‘Adrenalin Dive’ reported they had observed the two South Korean nationals scuba diving well inside the hull in the middle of the cargo area of the shipwreck. In a submission to the court Mr Park advised he had entered the hull of the shipwreck on two occasions.
The wreck of the Yongala lies within a protected zone declared under the Act and requires a permit from the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities to enter.
Divers are able to visit the site with a commercial operator that holds the appropriate permit.
Dive Permits set out what activity can take place in and around a shipwreck site. A key condition of the permit for the Yongala is that ‘penetration dives’ (going into or under an opening within the wreck) are strictly forbidden. Commercial dive operators are required to inform their customers of what activity they can undertake at the shipwreck site. ‘Penetration dives’ are prohibited to limit the physical impact of divers on the wreck and for the safety of divers.
The passenger and freight steamer SS Yongala went down with the loss of 122 lives in a cyclone between Mackay and Townsville in 1911. It has since become one of Australia’s premier dive sites, attracting between 4000 - 6000 people a year.
Currently there are approximately 8000 shipwrecks around Australia that are protected to ensure they are conserved for their historical significance and maintained for recreational, archaeological and educational purposes.
Members of the public with any information about activity in or near historic shipwreck sites can contact the department at firstname.lastname@example.org
The maximum penalty for a breach of dive permit conditions is up to $2 000 in fines or 2 years in jail. For more information about the protection of Australia’s historic shipwrecks go to www.environment.gov.au/heritage/shipwrecks/index.html