THE Australian Maritime Safety Authority has signed a contract to remove lost containers from box ship YM Efficiency that famously lost 81 containers overboard off Newcastle last year.

AMSA released an open tender to industry calling for proposals to remove the containers back in August 2019 with submissions closing on 23 September and seven submissions received.

After reviewing proposals, a contract was signed with Ardent Oceania to remove 60 containers and associated debris from the waters off Newcastle and Port Stephens.

Of the 81 containers lost, five have already been recovered – a further 16 remain undetected by the underwater surveys.


The successful proposal includes the design and construction of a custom fabricated metal basket which is to be used for lifting the containers.

The basket is to be deployed to the sea bed by a large ship with containers to be placed in the basket then lifted to the surface.

The recovery work is to rely on remotely operated underwater vehicles and heave-compensated cranes operated from the surface, minimising any safety risks.

The contract is said to include contingencies for dealing with any unexpected release of material and should any floating debris escape, additional first response capability are to be deployed on site.

AMSA’s contractor is to do both marine and land-based operations.

Pollution recovered from the ocean is to be transported to a specially-constructed waste reception facility in Newcastle.

The entire operation is expected to take a month, beginning in March.

AMSA says it has sought to engage with the Taiwanese owners of the YM Efficiency, Yang Ming, but Yang Ming and their insurers Britannia P&I have, according to AMSA, argued they do not believe that the containers constitute pollution.

AMSA chief executive Mick Kinley said the single largest ecological impact from this event was from the increased load of hydrocarbon-based, persistent plastic from cargo and its packaging.

 “The owners and operators of the YM Efficiency should be ashamed at the way they have treated the Newcastle and Port Stephens community,” Mr Kinley said.

“These containers are filled with plastic and if they are not removed then they will continue to degrade, periodically releasing their contents to wash up on the region’s beautiful beaches.

“If not dealt with now in a controlled manner, this will be a pollution legacy that future generations will have to deal with for decades.”