Ship containers removed from NSW ocean
More than 60 sunken shipping containers have been removed from the ocean after they toppled off a cargo vessel in rough seas off Newcastle in NSW nearly two years ago.
The YM Efficiency, a 43,000-tonne Liberian-registered ship, was travelling from Taiwan to Sydney when it was hit by huge seas off Port Stephens in June 2018.
It lost 81 containers overboard and a further 62 were damaged.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority has since then been leading an operation to search for and recover the lost containers.
The recovery operation was completed on Friday after 63 shipping containers and tonnes of associated pollution were removed from the ocean floor.
The operation involved a custom-built steel basket that was lowered on to the ocean floor, with remotely operated underwater vehicles helping to transfer the containers and rubbish into the basket to be brought to the surface and transferred to a ship.
AMSA general manager of response Mark Morrow says the team had originally expected to recover 60 containers but had found and removed an additional three.
"By recovering these containers and the tonnes of plastic and other rubbish contained inside, we have ensured that future generations are not picking up (shipping company) Yang Ming's mess off the region's beaches for decades to come," he said in a statement on Friday.
AMSA said the total cost of removal and disposal is about $17 million which has so far been funded by the agency.
The maritime authority has commenced legal proceedings in the Federal Court to recover all costs associated with the recovery operation from the Taiwanese shipping company and its insurers.
AMSA chief executive Mick Kinley claims Yang Ming and its insurers have attempted to shirk their responsibility to clean up the mess.
"Yang Ming are out of excuses and they should pay up," he said in a statement.
NSW Maritime acting executive director Alex Barrell said the pollution threat to coastal communities along the Hunter region has now been significantly diminished.
In the months after the incident, substantial debris from the lost containers washed ashore along the NSW coast. Fishing trawlers's nets hooked on to containers or other lost material.
An Australian Transport Safety Bureau report earlier this year found shipping containers weren't stowed correctly on board the YM Efficiency.