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Ship loses oil, fertilizer in storm off Australia

Ship loses oil, fertilizer in storm off Australia

More than 30 shipping containers of ammonium nitrate fell off a ship in stormy seas off Australia early Wednesday, damaging the ship's hull and leaking up to 30 tons of oil.
The 31 containers that fell overboard held 694 U.S. tons (620 metric tons) of fertilizer _ which can be used to make explosives _ and another ton had spilled out onto the deck of the Pacific Adventurer, said Capt. John Watkinson, general manager of Maritime Safety Queensland.
He said the risk of an explosion was low but emergency services would be on standby when the ship docks in Brisbane on Thursday.
When the containers fell, they damaged fuel stores in the hull, spilling oil into the Pacific Ocean. Aerial reports estimate the oil slick covers 3 nautical miles (about 3.45 miles) by 500 yards (meters).
The ship was caught in wild seas from Cyclone Hamish, which has swirled off the coast of Queensland state for nearly a week.
It is unknown how the containers came loose. They have not been found.
Watkinson said the ship and its 15 crew were anchored in calmer waters of Moreton Bay, just off Brisbane, for safety precautions and assessment.
"The cargo is rather benign. It takes a significant mixing with certain other contaminants, which are not on the ship, or a pretty big ignition source and neither one are present," Watkinson told reporters in Brisbane. "We believe the risk is pretty low."
Mike Short of the Environmental Protection Agency said the fertilizer in the lost containers would be diluted enough to avoid any major problems. Ammonium nitrate can be explosive when exposed to heat or chlorine.
"The oil is our greatest concern, both to the environment and wildlife," Short said. "Spills and wildlife don't mix."
He said crews were patrolling the area for signs of oil on the beaches or for injured wildlife.


Updated : 2021-03-08 21:23 GMT+08:00