INSURER and the operator of the vessel YM Efficiency are set to be billed for the cost of deploying underwater drones required to search for containers from the boxship earlier this year.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority has released a statement indicating as many as 42 containers remained missing in prime fishing grounds off Newcastle.
While bad weather has impeded searches since a survey back in July, AMSA chief executive Mick Kinley said the presence of containers in valuable fishing grounds presented “an unacceptable risk to local fishers”.
“The dangers of hooking up on debris has understandably led to many local trawlers avoiding these valuable areas which not only impacts their livelihood but also has knock-on effects for the local industry,” Mr Kinley said.
There is also the risk of plastics from the containers breaking down and forming micro-plastics with flow-on environmental effects.
In its statement, AMSA said further delays were no longer acceptable.
“While we would have preferred that Yang Ming or their insurers (Aus Ship) had taken further action, consistent with our function to combat pollution in the marine environment AMSA is contracting a third party to conduct a ROUV assessment of the containers and debris field identified to date,” AMSA said in a statement.
“This operation will not be without cost which AMSA has advised Yang Ming and their insurers that we will be seeking to recover.”
The remotely operated underwater vehicles are to descend to the ocean floor and provide imagery of the containers and any associated debris.
Images are to allow an assessment by salvage experts on whether the items can be brought to the surface safely. The survey activity is expected to begin in about a week and take several weeks to complete, with plans to remove the debris “as soon as possible”.
“We look forward to meaningful cooperation and action from Yang Ming and their insurers to deal with both the economic loss being suffered by the fishing industry and the removal of the hazard created by the loss of the containers from their ship,” Mr Kinley said.
AMSA says it has received three “credible reports” of trawler hook-ups on containers or other materials lost from the YM Efficiency.