Newcastle Herald, 1 January 2020—Mick Kinley

Thousands of families will head to Newcastle and Port Stephens beaches these summer holidays. It’s searing hot and they’ll be out and about in the waters off Bar Beach and Fingal Bay.
fingal bay

Taiwanese shipping company Yang Ming doesn’t seem to comprehend the depth of our connection to our beaches and the ocean and why Australians were so outraged when its ship, the YM Efficiency, lost 81 containers off the coast of Newcastle and Port Stephens in June 2018.

Yang Ming and its insurer, Britannia P&I – represented here in Australia by AusShip – are commercial businesses.

From their inactions to date, they have no intention of cleaning-up the 60 containers which have been located and identified. By their own admission, these steel containers will eventually corrode and release more plastic into our ocean.

They are working hard to plant seeds of doubt in the minds of commercial fishers who have trawled these coastal waters for decades – for generations in some cases.

Fishers have reported “hook-ups” of their nets on containers during trawling operations.

Their safety is at risk if the containers remain on the sea floor and so are their livelihoods as degrading plastic begins to enter the marine food chain.

Yang Ming have underestimated this Australian community’s ability to see the real issues and the zero tolerance to further environmental pressures on our oceans.

In the aftermath of the container spill, locals came out in droves to clean-up plastic debris as it washed ashore on their precious beaches. It was a violation of their home and I can understand their outrage.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) shares that outrage. Our mission after all is “safe and clean seas, saving lives”.

Safe and clean seas

Over the last 18 months we have battled with Yang Ming and its insurer to take responsibility for the mess they have left behind. When a similar incident occurred in European waters, the insurers immediately engaged salvors to recover the containers from the seabed. When I asked the representative of Britannia why that was not the case off Newcastle I was told that Europe “was not in the middle of nowhere”.

We have reached an impasse with the company and that is why we have signed a $15 million contract with a global leader in salvage – Ardent Oceania – to clean up this mess.

Today (20 December 2019) we have issued an invoice to the tune of $3 million to Yang Ming and its insurers to recover AMSA’s cost of the mobilisation payment for the clean-up operations.

If payment isn’t received by 18 January 2020, we will commence legal action to ensure the polluter pays.

Now, to the salvage operation

Ardent Oceania (formerly Svitzer Salvage) and its director Drew Shannon are no strangers to Newcastle.

They recovered the Pasha Bulker from Nobby’s Beach more than a decade ago after it grounded during a storm.

It was a remarkable feat on the part of the salvors and they will do it again for the pollution left behind by Yang Ming’s YM Efficiency.

Work will begin in March 2020 and it’s expected to be finished in just a month. On our website you can learn more about the cutting-edge technology and methods that Ardent will use to safely confine and retrieve the shipping containers and their contents.

We will be back in town in January and February for industry and community briefings on the project and will keep the community up to date through the Newcastle Herald.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the communities of Newcastle and Port Stephens for their support of the salvage project. Yang Ming and its insurers might be prepared to leave a legacy of plastic pollution behind, but we are not.

- Mick Kinley, CEO AMSA

Last updated: 

Wednesday 8 January 2020