Debris team finds bunker bottles: AMSA investigates

Master and chief engineer said to be unable to explain how samples made their way overboard.

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Updated on 23 Jan 2017 06:47 GMT

The Tangaroa Blue Foundation - a non-profit organisation dedicated to the removal and prevention of marine debris - said on Friday that during the Western Australian Beach Clean-up event last October, two bunker oil bottles were found in the Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park by volunteers, and the following week another two bottles were discovered in the same region by Margaret River locals.

According to Tangaroa Blue, the bottles were "full of marine fuel oil", still intact, and with labels on them listing a vessel name, date and crew members' names.

Heidi Taylor, Managing Director of Tangaroa Blue Foundation said: "Volunteers provided photos and location details which we were able to quickly report to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) for potential investigation. This highlights the value of citizen scientists' observations while out in the field, our volunteers are not rubbish collectors, but part of a national marine debris CSI team."

The AMSA was able to track down the vessel - the Gloria Island, a bulk carrier registered in Panama - and board while alongside at Thevenard in South Australia. Both the master and chief engineer of the vessel were said to have been questioned at length without being able to provide an explanation as to how the oil sample bottles made their way overboard. The vessel's processes regarding bunker oil sampling were also reviewed.

Members of the crew were then individually interviewed and there were no reports of untoward behaviour and all were aware of MARPOL requirements, Tangaroa Blue said. As such, it was determined that there was insufficient evidence to detain the vessel, and the appropriate course of action would be to issue an improvement notice under the Navigation Act 2012 to the vessel - compelling the recipient to improve the onboard Safety Management System through a review of procedures to ensure bunker oil samples are stored and disposed in a manner that does not cause pollution.

Brad Groves, AMSA General Manager of Standards, remarked: "Preventing the illegal discharge of waste from vessels is a key focus for AMSA in protecting the marine environment. AMSA's formal relationship with Tangaroa Blue means that we are able to act quickly when evidence of this kind is collected by volunteers. In this case the improvement notice that was issued will highlight to the vessel's owners that proper procedures must be followed to prevent pollution or they risk substantial penalties for future non-compliance."

Image: Fuel sample discovered by marine debris team in Western Australia in October 2016.