Residents of Sydney’s east have woken to beaches covered in face masks, plastic containers and other items after 40 shipping containers fell off a ship on the weekend.
The APL England lost the cargo in rough seas on Sunday while en route from China to Melbourne, forcing the ship to turn around and head to Brisbane.
The containers lost overboard held a wide range of goods including household appliances, building materials and medical supplies.
Australian Maritime Safety Authority officials received reports of face masks “washing up between Magenta Beach and The Entrance”, north of Sydney.
“These [reports] correlate to drift modelling of debris and are consistent with items listed on the ship’s cargo manifest,” AMSA general manager of operations Allan Schwartz said on Tuesday.
New South Wales Maritime executive director Alex Barrell said boxes of flexible ducting, commonly used in heating and cooling systems, washed ashore at Bondi and Long Bay on Tuesday.
Eastern beaches locals attempted to clear the debris on Wednesday morning, concerned the large amount of plastic could hurt local marine life.
Aliy Pott, who lives in Bondi, said: “I saw an article about the shipping last night. I didn’t get a good night’s sleep. I set an alarm and promised myself I’d go down and do what I could.
“When I got down [to Coogee], the beach looked like a tip. The whole left side of the beach was just covered. It was all medical masks and full packages of plastics containers not opened.
“I bought some extra gloves and two people came and helped me out. We got several rubbish bags full … with the number of [cargo] containers that fell, I’m worried this could be an everyday occurrence. People need to take the time to go down to their beach.”
NSW Maritime was advising coastal councils between Sydney and Gosford on how to deal with the containers and their contents as sea current modelling shows these areas could be further affected over the coming days.
Meanwhile, AMSA officials were expected to confirm on Wednesday morning whether the APL England could be brought safely into the Port of Brisbane.
AMSA officers boarded the vessel off Port Cartwright in Queensland on Tuesday to conduct a seaworthiness inspection following the collapse of the container stacks.
AMSA said in a tweet on Tuesday: “An additional 74 containers are damaged and collapsed on the deck of the ship, while a further six containers are reported to be protruding from starboard side and three containers from the port side of the ship.”
Schwartz said the seaworthiness inspection would help determine if the ship could be brought safely into the Brisbane port.
“Once the ship is safely in port we will begin our investigation, which will focus on the safety of the ship including whether cargo was appropriately stacked and secured on board the ship, and any potential breaches of environmental pollution regulations,” he said in a statement.