THE intense rainfall behind a major flooding event in Queensland has largely lifted, but the Port of Brisbane remains closed.

Debris washed into a swollen Brisbane River over the past week created navigational challenges for vessels at the port, and one vessel broke its lines in the strong current.

The regional harbour master suspended the movement of vessels due to significant water flows, turbulence, debris, and potential underwater obstacles to shipping and other vessels.

In an operational update, Port of Brisbane chief executive officer interim Neil Stephens said the situation is evolving, and stakeholders are working together to ensure the port is safe for those who work there.

“The regional harbour master’s direction … remains in place, which means there are no vessel movements in or out of the port at this time,” Mr Stephens said.

“River velocity and water turbidity remain challenging for all on-water operations; however conditions are gradually improving.

“The RHM and PBPL continue to work closely to identify risks associated with the resumption of port operations.

Mr Stephens said Port of Brisbane survey vessels were on-water yesterday and they would return again today to assess navigational depth and the potential for debris obstruction.

He said there is more debris appearing around Fisherman Island in particular as the river gradually slows toward the river mouth.

The vessels will focus on removing debris from around the port precincts when safe to do so.

Maritime Safety Queensland general manager Kell Dillon said port channel clearance is currently underway, using comprehensive hydrographic and sonar surveys to ensure it is safe for shipping and other vessels before the port re-opens.

“The regional harbour master has issued a directive to only allow essential agencies such as Maritime Safety Queensland, water police and SES to operate on the Brisbane River to ensure public safety, and to concentrate resources to allow for re-opening of the port, river and waterways,” Mr Dillon said.

Meantime, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau has commenced investigations into a breakaway and grounding incident involving an oil tanker which broke its mooring lines on Sunday night.  

“The Hong Kong-flagged tanker CSC Friendship was berthed at the Ampol products berth on Sunday, 27 February, and the Brisbane River was in flood,” ATSB chief commissioner Angus Mitchell told DCN.

“At around 11pm, due to the strong current, seven mooring lines reportedly failed, and the ship came clear of the wharf.

“The master notified Brisbane VTS and two tugs were sent to assist. The port anchor was dropped, but the ship again came free, moved across the channel, and grounded at 12.30am on Monday morning.

Mr Mitchell said the vessel was refloated around five hours later and moved to Moreton Bay, where it remains under the supervision of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

“A team of transport safety investigators from ATSB’s Brisbane and Perth offices with expertise in marine operations will conduct interviews with involved parties and witnesses, and review logs and available recorded information,” he said.

“The ATSB will download data from the ship’s voyage data recorder and other recordings for detailed examination in the ATSB’s technical facilities in Canberra.”

He said a report will be published at the conclusion of the investigation, however the ATSB will notify relevant parties if a critical safety issue is identified during the investigation.