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Pacific Adventurer

Name
Pacific Adventurer
Accident date
11/03/2009
Location
Australia
Accident area
north-east coast, off Moreton Island
Spill area
Offshore
Cause of spill
Weather conditions
Product transported
ammonium nitrate
Quantity transported
60 containers
Nature of pollutant
ammonium nitrate + fuel
Quantity spilled
31 containers (620 tonnes) + 270 tonnes of oil
Ship / structure type
Cargo vessel
Built date
1991
Shipyard
Minami nippon, Usuki Japan
Length
184.90 m
Width
27.60 m
Draught
10.60 m
Flag
Hong Kong
Owner
Swire Shipping
Manager
Swire Shipping

The incident

On 11 March 2009, the cargo vessel Pacific Adventurer was caught in a cyclone off Queensland (Australia). It presented a 45 degree list, causing 31 containers filled with ammonium nitrate to fall overboard. Two hours later, the team realised the ship had a crack in her port side near the engine room. A fuel tank, as well as a bunker tank located below the water line, were damaged.

An estimated 270 tonnes of oil was spilt, forming a slick 5.5 km long by 500 metres wide. The area worst affected by the oil spill was the south-east coast of the state of Queensland and in particular Moreton Island National Park, the beaches north of Brisbane as well as a few areas around the Brisbane River. In total, 60 km of shoreline were affected by this incident.

The ship was immobilised in the Port of Brisbane until the accident enquiry was completed.

Response

As part of the National Marine Oil Spill Contingency Plan, Queensland Government took charge of response operations and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) acted as technical and logistic adviser.

Treating the ammonium nitrate

Planes flew over the accident area to detect the containers lost overboard, to prevent their contents from being released. The missing containers contained 620 tonnes of ammonium nitrate. This chemical is mainly used to produced fertilisers and explosives.

On 19 and 20 March, containers were located by two Australian Navy surveillance ships, near where they were initially lost.

Treating the fuel

On 12 and 19 March, planes flew over the accident area to estimate the quantity of oil spilt.

Shoreline clean-up operations lasted 2 months and proved complicated.

2,500 people took part in the clean-up effort and 3,000 tonnes of contaminated sand were removed from Moreton Island. Most of the work involved manual recovery using shovels and rakes. 65% of oiled beaches were rehabilitated.

Impact

According to experts, ammonium nitrate could be harmful to algal bloom, asphyxiate fish and destroy marine habitats. Moreover, Moreton Bay is a marine park home to many species of birds, turtles and dolphins.
In terms of the extent of the spill, a relatively small proportion of the fauna was affected.

The Federal Government allocated 2 million Australian dollars to the restoration of the northern tip of Moreton Island and the rehabilitation of the beaches and mangroves located between Caloundra and Coolum Beach on the Sunshine Coast. This funding was used to replant damaged areas, stabilise the dunes and monitor animal and plant species.

Compensation

The Australian Government declared a state of emergency and engaged legal proceedings against the ship owner. Response operations cost a total of 32 million Australian dollars (26 millions euros). Following negotiations with the Australian Government, the ship owner offered 25 million Australian dollars (17 million euros) in compensation, instead of the 14.5 million (10 million euros) required by law.

Sources:

- Australian Governement, February 2009, Response to the Pacific Adventurer Incident
- O.Caslin, 27/03/2009, Le Marin, Marée noire sans précédent sur les côtes du Queensland
- Australian Transport Safety Bureau
- ABC News
- Actualités Environnement
- The Australian
- Independent review of responsiveness of the disaster management system support

Last update: 18/03/2011