Disgruntled residents along the NSW coast are looking for answers after thousands of face masks and plastic containers washed up along dozens of beaches on Wednesday.
The APL England cargo ship lost about 40 shipping containers in rough seas off the NSW coast on Sunday night.
Yet the Australian Maritime Safety Authority says investigations into a Singapore-flagged container ship could take at least a month to determine any breaches against the country's environmental protection regulations.
Social media was awash on Wednesday with photos of face masks and plastic containers strewn across beaches from Sydney to Newcastle, including debris on iconic Bondi Beach.
Several beaches in Sydney’s eastern suburbs were forced to close on Wednesday due to the amount of cargo that washed up.
Five 40ft shipping containers also washed up on Birdie Beach on the Central Coast, while others were spotted off Terrigal.
Terrigal MP Adam Crouch said he would push to ensure those responsible fund the efforts to clear up beaches in the area.
“I will be writing to the NSW Transport Minister to make it clear that my expectation, as well as our community’s, is that the owners of APL England are held accountable for the clean-up cost,” he wrote on Facebook.
His comments were echoed by other angry locals, with some taking it upon themselves to clear the beaches of the washed up cargo.
“I hope someone is being held accountable for this,” one person declared.
“Absolutely terrible,” another said.
Surgical face masks & shipping containers were among the lost cargo that washed up on Central Coast beaches yesterday. These incidents are devastating for the loss of valuable safety equipment & for the impacts these pollutants have on the environment #Take3fortheSea pic.twitter.com/zDwVL1iQJ8— Take 3 (@Take3fortheSea) May 27, 2020
Australian Seabird Rescue Central Coast announced a two-day clean-up for local beaches.
Central Coast based environmental charity Take 3 said the cargo spill was “devastating” for the area.
NSW Maritime executive director Alex Barrell on Wednesday said some 60 workers had been appointed to clean up debris from the containers as it continues to come ashore at various beaches along the coastline.
Debris from a container ship has washed up on many of our beaches, including Malabar (pictured). Our crews are out now, cleaning up. There may be submerged items in the water, so please don’t swim. Don’t pick up rubbish, let us know about it, it may not be safe for you. pic.twitter.com/REYnlObbcr— Randwick Council (@RandwickCouncil) May 27, 2020
He warned locals they need to report debris sightings so it can be logged and disposed of correctly.
Almost 75 containers were damaged on deck with another six left protruding from the ship's starboard side and three from the port side.
AMSA surveyors conducted an inspection of the ship at the Port of Brisbane anchorage on Tuesday before it was brought safely into the port on Wednesday.
The authority's General Manager Allan Schwartz said investigations are on two fronts.
The first is the ship's compliance with both Australian and international maritime safety standards. This outcome will be reached over the coming days.
"Secondly, we need to establish if the ship has breached any Australian environmental protection regulations and or standards that apply to the safe and secure carriage of cargo," Mr Schwartz said in a statement.
"The first phase of that investigation is expected to take at least a month and may take longer.
"Subject to the outcome, legal action could be taken by AMSA against various parties including the ship's owner and others."
ANL, the operator of APL England, said 21 of the containers lost overboard were empty and none of the others contained regulated hazardous goods or dangerous cargo.
The containers held medical supplies as well as household appliances and building materials.
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