Australian oil spill '10 times worse' than thought

Mar 14, 2009
Council workers use heavy machinery to remove contaminated sand in Coolum, Queensland. Dozens of popular tourist beaches on Australia's northeast coast have been declared a disaster zone, with their once-pristine sands fouled by a massive oil and chemical slick.

An oil spill polluting popular tourist beaches on Australia's northeast coast is 10 times worse than originally reported, according to the state government.

Dozens of beaches have been declared disaster zones after they were fouled by a massive slick spilled from the Hong Kong-flagged ship Pacific Adventurer in wild seas on Wednesday.

Initial estimates put the spill at 20-30 tonnes of oil but "it is now apparent that it was about 230 tonnes," Queensland state's Deputy Premier Paul Lucas told public radio.

About 60 kilometres (almost 40 miles) of beaches have been hit by the oil, with Moreton Island about 40 kilometres off Brisbane city the worst affected.

The crisis was sparked when high seas whipped up by Cyclone Hamish toppled 31 containers of ammonium nitrate fertiliser from the ship's deck.

As they fell, the containers punctured the hull, before taking 620 tonnes of the explosive chemical to the floor.

The ship's owners, Swire Shipping, said an inspection of the hull by a diver on Friday had found that the damage was greater than initially believed and "it is likely that substantially more oil has spilled than the earlier estimate".

Swire faces 1.5 million dollars (977,000 US dollars) in fines if found guilty of environmental or maritime breaches

"The company very much regrets the environmental impact caused as a consequence of the vessel being caught in Cyclone Hamish," it said.

"The company and its insurers will meet all their responsibilities."

Swire had to launch a separate clean-up effort Friday after the ship docked and leaked more oil into the river running through Brisbane, Queensland's capital.

Apart from the , experts fear the fertiliser could cause , suffocate fish and kill natural habitats.

Moreton Bay, a marine sanctuary, is home to a range of as well as turtles, dolphins and pelicans.

Hundreds of people are working to clean the beaches and save affected wildlife.

(c) 2009 AFP

Explore further: US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Estonian oil spill threatens 35,000 birds

Feb 07, 2006

As many as 35,000 birds, including rare white-tailed eagles and eagle owls, are in danger as the result of an oil spill off Estonia's northwest coast.

World record polluting fine paid in Boston

Dec 21, 2005

A Hong Kong ship's captain has reportedly agreed to pay a $10.5 million dumping fine -- the largest criminal environmental fine in Massachusetts history.

Recommended for you

US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

Apr 18, 2014

The United States announced Friday a fresh delay on a final decision regarding a controversial Canada to US oil pipeline, saying more time was needed to carry out a review.

New research on Earth's carbon budget

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Results from a research project involving scientists from the Desert Research Institute have generated new findings surrounding some of the unknowns of changes in climate and the degree to which ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Velanarris
not rated yet Mar 15, 2009
No where near a large enough fine. No where near it.
Egnite
not rated yet Mar 17, 2009
The oil that spilled was probably worth more than the fine. Surely they should've been fined respectively to the costs of the clean-up and damages?

More news stories

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...