Qld oil spill ‘could have been worse’

The oil spill off the Queensland coast would have been even worse if a second unseaworthy vessel had been allowed to leave a NSW port with its cargo of fertiliser, the maritime union says.

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Tens of thousands of litres of oil spilled from the cyclone-struck cargo ship Pacific Adventurer has washed up on the shores of Moreton and Bribie islands and parts of the Sunshine Coast.

The oil leaked after the ship’s hull was damaged when containers carrying toxic ammonium nitrate were washed overboard on Wednesday morning (AEST) during cyclone Hamish.

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) says the Hong Kong-registered vessel was one of two ships that loaded ammonium nitrate fertiliser in the NSW Hunter region port of Newcastle.

The union says the oil spill could have been worse if the other ship, the Migah Tiga, had been allowed to leave Newcastle.

The Panamanian-registered cargo ship was deemed unseaworthy by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) last week.

“Had the vessel sailed, we could well have had double the disaster,” the MUA’s national secretary Paddy Crumlin said.

Mr Crumlin said the oil spill showed tighter government regulation and highly trained Australian crews were needed.

Meanwhile, Bribie Island and Sunshine Coast beaches look set to be cleared of spilled oil by Saturday in what has been billed as the state’s worst environmental disaster, but Moreton Island is proving more difficult.

A Saturday briefing heard it is proving difficult to get the personnel onto the island, where the biggest cleanup is underway.

It is now believed 50 litres of oil has been lost into the Brisbane River after the ship berthed at Hamilton on Friday morning.

But officials say the leak has been contained and there has been no further spill on Saturday morning.

The ship is undergoing repairs at Hamilton Wharf, in Brisbane’s north.

Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) CEO Graham Peachey said the ship had been detained and would be investigated.