Navy may help locate sunk shipping containers

The navy could be called on to help locate shipping containers lost overboard from the cargo ship responsible for the massive oil spill off the Queensland coast.


The Pacific Adventurer lost 31 containers filled with ammonium nitrate in cyclonic seas last Wednesday.

The impact knocked two holes in the hull, unleashing a 250-tonne oil slick onto the eastern seaboard.

The government has been unable to find the containers using a hydrographic survey boat, The Norfolk, a Queensland government spokesman told AAP. Now the navy\’s help is being considered.

“That\’s (using the navy) definitely under consideration right now,” the spokesman told AAP.

“It\’s (The Norfolk) got limited capacity in terms of its survey capability, so getting a greater capability is what they (Maritime Safety Queensland) are still working on.”

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority\’s Dornier aircraft could only locate the material if it was close to the surface of the water and it was thought the containers had sunk to a depth of 250 metres.

The 630 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, a fertiliser that can be used to make bombs, is thought to be east of Moreton Island.

Ammonium nitrate dissolves when mixed with water and while it can cause algal bloom in high concentrations, authorities hope its concentration had diluted enough not to cause a problem.

Meanwhile, the captain and crew remain on board the Pacific Adventurer, which is docked at Hamilton in the Brisbane River. Maritime authorities, accompanied by police, on Sunday handed the captain legal papers directing him to remain on the ship while investigations continue.

The shipping company, Swire Shipping, is facing a multi-million dollar clean-up bill in addition to possible fines of up to $2 million.

The ship is to stay in dock until there is an outcome to the investigation. Meanwhile, about 300 workers continue the clean-up on Moreton Island, while 150 help out on the Sunshine Coast.

Most of the affected areas of Bribie Island have been cleaned up. Further comment was being sought from the government and the navy.