NSW taxpayers spared the bill but not the rubbish

18 June 2020

Container and debris sightings from the APL England have slowed but behind the scenes, work continues to manage the response to the impact of the incident on the NSW coastline.

NSW Maritime A/ Executive Director Alex Barrell said under the NSW marine pollution contingency plan and the NSW State Emergency Management Plan, it is the responsibility of NSW Maritime, part of Transport for NSW, to enact and lead the response from the State Maritime Incident Control Centre.

“There is a lot of community concern whenever there is a marine pollution incident like this,” Mr Barrell said.

“We understand how traumatising it is to see face masks and air conditioning ducting on your favourite beach instead of shells and seaweed, but we can reassure the community this is exactly what we train multiple times a year for. This is what we do.

“More than two thirds of our staff involved in the response to the APL England also worked on the YM Efficiency container response two years ago, although it’s little comfort to know that containers are lost from ships around the world on a daily basis.”

Mr Barrell said members of the community may also be reassured to know it is not the taxpayers of NSW who foot the bill for large-scale marine pollution incidents.

“There are legal mechanisms to recover the costs and we are working with the ship’s owners and insurers who will be ultimately responsible for reimbursing the NSW Government costs.”

Fifteen of the 50 containers which fell from the ship have been recovered, with a helicopter being used today to remove difficult to reach container pieces from the rocks at Crackneck Point near Bateau Bay.

Mr Barrell said the team responding to the clean up of containers and debris includes multiple government agencies and coastal councils between Port Stephens and Wollongong.

“We also have two companies of contracted labour up and down the coast which gives us the capability to mobilise quickly and in multiple places at once when we receive tip offs from members of the community.

“While the reports of debris and containers have slowed considerably in recent days, we will continue to maintain our resourcing as part of our commitment and responsibilities in maintaining our pristine coastline.”

The containership APL England lost 50 containers 73 kilometres off Sydney in waters around two kilometres deep on 24 May. Debris started to wash ashore two days later.

Members of the public who witness any suspected debris or shipping containers on NSW beaches should contact the NSW Maritime Info Line 13 12 36 – select Option 2 or report via email to incident@transport.nsw.gov.au.

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