RMS to run information sessions for public and fishing industry in Nelson Bay for cargo clean-up on Wednesday

A shipping container found in water off Fingal Island and 800 cubic metres of debris has been collected in the ongoing clean up of the Port’s coastline.

Roads and Maritime Services executive director Angus Mitchell said he was satisfied with the progress RMS staff and Varley Group have made in recovering debris from the 83 shipping containers that went overboard the YM Efficiency on June 1.

“The clean-up is progressing well despite adverse weather and sea conditions, the large geographical spread of the affected areas and restricted access to some of the sites,” he said.

“Almost a third of an Olympic swimming pool of debris has been removed from the water and shoreline during the clean-up.

“Work will continue into this week. While weather conditions in the last few days have prohibited access to some of the more remote locations, conditions are expected to improve greatly in the coming days, so we expect to gain access to the likes of Broughton Island.”

RMS is working closely with Varley Group, the Newcastle-based contractor appointed by the ship’s insurers, to collect the debris. Between 60 and 120 workers have been on the ground each day since June 5, clearing debris washed up along the coastline between Stockton north to Coffs Harbour.

Items such as plastic cups, nappies, food containers, tyres and yoga mats lost from the shipping containers have been washing up on Port Stephens beaches.

The Taiwanese shipping company that owns YM Efficiency has since apologised for the environmental disaster. 

“We know that the marine incident has brought a lot of public concern,” Yang Ming spokesman Steven Ka said. 

“We do apologise for all the inconvenience caused to local residents. Of course we will take full responsibility to recover and to minimise the impact to the marine environment.”

RMS will run public information sessions about the shipping container incident and clean-up in Nelson Bay on Wednesday and Tea Gardens on Thursday.

Public information sessions:

  • Wednesday 13 June at 6pm – Wests Nelson Bay, Remembrance Room
  • Thursday 14 June at 10am – Tea Gardens Baptist Church, Myall Street

Fishing industry session:

  • Wednesday 13 June at 4pm – Wests Nelson Bay, Remembrance Room

Aerial surveillance crews and teams of divers were deployed to debris hot spots along the Port Stephens coastline last Thursday.

Roads and Maritime has also deployed a 12 metre long harbour cleaning vessel and three Environmental Services Officers, which usually operate on Sydney Harbour, into the water off Port Stephens to join in the clean-up.

A second shipping container was found on Saturday, June 9 about 15 metres off Fingal Island. ​It is only the second container of the 83 that has been located.

A dive team retrieved pieces of the container and will continue to do so this week.

Mr Mitchell said the remaining parts of the container off Fingal Island are deemed to not be a navigational hazard. However, marine radio warnings about the potential navigation hazards in the area are continuing to be broadcast to boaters and fishing operators in the area.

“Divers are continuing to monitor debris in the water column and have reported clearer water off Fingal Head,” Mr Mitchell said.

Varley Group is working with Port Stephens Council to ensure there are adequate waste facilities available to dispose of debris collected in the area.

Waste is collected and stored at designated pick up locations then transported to an approved waste facility by Varley Group. 

“Bulker bags of debris collected on the long weekend will be removed by helicopter in coming days,” Mr Mitchell said, adding his thanks to the community members who have helped collect debris.

“While the community could not be formally engaged with the clean-up operations Roads and Maritime acknowledges the great efforts of people in the Port Stephens area who have been helping with removing debris from what is essentially their backyard.”

Community members are encouraged to continue reporting debris on 13 12 36, and selecting option two.