Chinese bulk carrier the Shen Neng 1, which is stranded on the Great Barrier Reef, ran aground in waters which were "not navigationally challenging", according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).
The ship hit a reef at the edge of a 12 mile-wide, 40m-deep channel where it had intended to travel through a short cut where it ran aground.
An AMSA spokesperson told couriermail.com.au the crew had planned to head through the less-popular route under the Douglas Shoal, north of Gladstone, but steered off course 5.8 nautical miles, running aground.
Salvage crews are working to pump nearly 1,000t of heavy fuel oil from the 230m vessel, which was en route to China carrying some 65,000t of coal when it grounded.
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said it will consider expanding the use of marine pilots and vessel tracking systems in the wake of the incident.