Teams of clean up crew have been activated and are working to collect debris from the 83 containers which fell from a ship into the ocean 30 kilometres off the Central Coast in the early hours of Friday, despite hammering rain and wind on the Port Stephens coastline.
The State Marine Pollution Controller role has now been activated with Roads and Maritime Services Executive Director Angus Mitchell coordinating and overseeing the clean up effort.
“To ensure we have a coordinated effort to remove the materials which wash ashore as soon as possible, Roads and Maritime is leading an effort involving NSW authorities, including National and Marine Parks, local councils where the material is washing up and federal agencies including the Australian Marine Safety Authority,” Mr MItchell said.
Debris has been confirmed at:
· Jimmys Beach (inside Port Stephens)
· Rocky Point and Fingal Head
· Bennetts Beach
· Port Stephens – D’Albora Marina to north of Little Beach
· Yacaaba Headland.
“There are currently have 20 people on the ground at Bennetts and Jimmys beaches, where the majority of material debris is washing up, with the capacity to increase this number to 100 people, dependent on ongoing aerial sightings.
“A number of bins are located at the 4WD access point at Bennetts Beach and a further delivery of skips was made to Jimmys Beach earlier today.
“At Bennetts Beach – five skip bins of rubbish have already been removed, including car bumper bars, printer cartridges, wooden bowls, lollies, chips, cookies, packaged drinks and analogue clocks from an insulated container.”
Mr Mitchell said while it is fantastic the local community has been getting involved and volunteering to help remove debris from the shoreline, it is not encouraged for safety and environmental reasons.
“This continuing environmental pollution and recovery effort is our highest priority and we will continue to provide updates to the community,” Mr Mitchell said.
The ship, YM Efficiency, is now off Gerroa on the South Coast.
Hourly warnings are being made to ensure ship operators are aware of the potential danger of the containers, which would not be very visible from the waterline.
Drift modelling is being used to predict where the debris – which is mixed but has been confirmed as non-hazardous - is likely to wash up, between Newcastle and Port Stephens.
No further containers have entered the ocean, despite there being another 30 damaged containers on board.
However, the containers pose a significant navigational hazard out at sea, which is why we are putting out hourly.
The ship’s insurers will lead the financial component of the recovery.
Members of the public are been asked to stay clear of any debris and containers and report to the NSW Maritime Info Line 13 12 36.