Shipping containers lost off NSW might never be found

Only one of the 83 containers lost from cargo ship YM Efficiency has been found so far. Rough conditions off Port Stephens, on the New South Wales mid north coast, on Friday June 1st caused the vessel to lose some of its cargo into the sea, while a further 30 containers on board suffered damage. Director of NSW Maritime Services Angus Mitchell said vessels that had been deployed to the region to help in the search would start recovering anything that’s found on top of the water and in the first layer of the water column, adding that “we also have some divers ready on standby and we’re just waiting for the conditions and the visibility to improve.”

Two of the still 82 missing containers were spotted the day after the incident, but have not been seen since.

Mr Mitchell said that “whilst we believe the vast majority are very likely at the bottom of the ocean, we won’t know that for sure for some time yet.”

Several items that were in the lost containers have washed ashore. More debris was expected to turn up on beaches as time went on.

Clean-up crews are also looking at the rocky outcrops, where debris has been trapped. “We’ve got crews from Seals Rocks in the north, right down to the top half of Stockton.” Mr Mitchell said. “We’ve got around 100 people on the beaches and on the rocks continuing the clean-up”.

“All of the costs will be passed onto the insurance company and that’s already starting to happen now,” Mr Mitchell said. “It really depends how long this goes on for and how much rubbish is actually picked up and disposed of. It certainly will be a considerable cost.”

The ship docked in Sydney’s Port Botany last week and is being looked over to establish her container tie-down procedures, as well the data records. Investigators from the Maritime Safety Authority and Transport Safety Bureau will interview the crew. “They’ll have a look at offloading the damaged containers, but also investigate the nature of the actual incident,” Mr Mitchell said.

“The danger posed to wildlife and marine life by plastic is certainly a very real concern,” Mr Mitchell said. “At this stage we don’t believe the containers themselves pose a threat to the whales themselves”.