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In adverse weather conditions on Friday, 83 containers out of a total 2, 252 containers on board, were toppled off the Libyan registered container ship, YM Efficiency (one of the Yang Ming fleet) after it rolled and pitched heavily in rough seas about 50 kilometers off the NSW Central Coast. It was on its way from Taiwan to Port Botany.
Boaters are warned that debris and 40 foot containers are now creating navigation hazards around Newcastle and Port Stephens. Containers are known to be extremely difficult to spot as they only sit a foot or two above the water. It has been reported that 30 containers on-board the vessel have also been severely damaged.
Debris including nappies, sanitary products, surgical masks, plastic jars, food packets, clocks and car parts has littered coastal locations including around Port Stephens, Anna Bay, Fingal Head and Nelson Bay. Until a more coordinated response is underway, residents and visitors have volunteered their own efforts to clean up and prevent as much as possible the impact of plastics on marine life. Plastic debris also damages commercial fishing equipment and vessels. The Port Stephens Council has thanked the volunteers but has now asked them to not put themselves at risk any longer and to report the debris instead.
Sailors of the Sydney Noumea Yacht Race which commenced on Sunday after the race was delayed by weather conditions in the days prior, were also warned to be on the lookout for the floating shipping containers for the first 24 hours of the race. To steer the competitors around the affected area, the organizers of the Sydney Noumea Race had to create an exclusion zone between 30 nautical miles east of Anna Bay at Port Stephens and further north at Seal Rocks.
Any sightings of containers or debris can be reported to NSW Roads and Maritime Services on 13 12 36 or the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) on 1800 641 792.
Many more waves of rubbish are expected to drift in over the coming weeks and months. Currently the maritime authority, the vessel’s agents and insurers are working together towards a solution that ensures the safest recovery of the containers. Yang Ming has undertaken an aerial survey to access the damage and search for containers floating in the sea. The company has reported that the overboard containers will be salvaged/removed by the vessel’s PNI, Britannia P&I club. It has also employed Varley, a local company, to provide skips for volunteers to dump the debris into.
Until today, YM Efficiency had been waiting off the coast near Gerroa to secure a berth as Port Botany was closed due to adverse weather conditions. However today with easing weather conditions, the vessel is expected to be berthed “under slow and careful assessment” according to Sydney’s harbour master Philip Holliday. At this stage, it is unsure whether the pilot would board the vessel via small launch or by helicopter for added safety.
The incident is currently under investigation by The Australian Transport Safety Bureau to identify, if any, critical safety issues.
Photo ABC News: Nancy
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