Community information sessions will be held in Newcastle, Tea Gardens and Nelson Bay next month to discuss how 60 shipping containers lost from the cargo ship YM Efficiency will be retrieved from along the Hunter's coast.
The logistics of the salvage operation and how the waste will be managed will be laid out to attendees of the sessions by the project team including representatives from Australian Maritime Safety Authority, NSW Roads and Maritime Services and Ardent Oceania, which has been contracted to carry out the work.
"Members of the Newcastle and Port Stephens community turned out in force to help clean up their beaches when this terrible pollution event occurred back in June 2018," an AMSA spokesperson said.
"As this [retrieval] operation begins we want to make sure that the local community are kept informed of exactly how we intend to remove the remaining pollution so that it does not continue to wash up on beaches over the coming decades.
"We want to make sure that members of the local community have an opportunity to see how the operation is planned and what steps we have taken to mitigate any risks associated with the clean-up.
"AMSA has taken action to begin the salvage operation because the owners of the YM Efficiency, Yang Ming Marine Transport Corp, have refused their obligations to clean up the mess that they have made."
The spokesperson said AMSA intends to recover all costs associated with the container retrieval and clean-up operation from Yang Ming.
Of the 81 containers that went overboard the YM Efficiency in heavy seas in June 2018, five have already been recovered from the Newcastle-Port Stephens coast while another 16 remain missing.
In December, AMSA awarded a $15 million contract to marine services company Ardent Oceania for the recovery of the containers.
The company will bring a specialist salvage vessel from Asia for the job, which will involve a team of 25 who will work around the clock.
Video: YM Efficiency container search RUOV update May 2019:
Managing director Drew Shannon, who oversaw the salvage of the Pasha Bulker from Nobbys reef in 2007, said he was optimistic that the containers lost from the YM Efficiency could be salvaged.
"Every job comes with its challenges but from what we have seen it appears the majority of the containers are still somewhat intact," he said. "It's difficult to ascertain the likelihood or risk of further release of pollutant but we do know some containers have been damaged so we will take them on a case by case basis."
Ardent Oceania's retrieval proposal includes the design and construction of a custom fabricated metal basket which will be used for lifting the containers.
This basket will be deployed to the sea bed by a large ship. The containers will be placed into the basket then and lifted to the surface. The basket will fully encapsulate the container so that no container or content debris can escape, mitigating any potential spill.
Pollution recovered from the ocean will be transported to a specially constructed waste reception facility in the Port of Newcastle.
The waste will be classified, stored, transported and disposed of according to NSW Environment Protection Authority guidelines. The operation is scheduled to take about a month starting in March.
Anyone with an interest in how the recovery operation will be conducted, would like to know what to expect or has questions is encouraged to attend the information sessions.
The first will be held at Newcastle Surf Lifesaving Club from 6pm to 7.30pm on Tuesday, February 4.
A session will be held at Tea Gardens Baptist Church from 10am-11.30am on Wednesday, February 5 followed by the final meeting at Wests Nelson Bay from 6pm-7.30pm on the same day.
Some of the topics to be covered in the information sessions
- When the operation will start and how long it is expected to take
- How the containers will be recovered from the ocean floor
- What AMSA will do with the debris and containers once recovered
- What the risks are and how they have been addressed
- What to do if people find debris and how they can report it
- How to contact the project team if they have questions or concerns
- How AMSA will be recovering the costs from Yang Ming