A huge clean up is under way on the mid-north coast after piles of debris washed up from shipping containers that fell off a cargo ship off the New South Wales coast during rough seas.
Nappies, sanitary products and surgical masks were among the flotsam that washed up after 83 containers fell overboard from YM Efficiency on Thursday, about 30 kilometres off the coast of Port Stephens.
Volunteers have been clearing carloads of debris from Jimmys and Bennetts beach at Hawks Nest since Sunday morning.
Late Saturday afternoon, marine rescue authorities spotted four containers about one kilometre offshore of Hawks Nest on the mid-North Coast, Roads and Maritime executive director Angus Mitchell said.
Debris was also found inside Port Stephens at Rocky Point near Anna Bay and at Fingal Head, while a section of shipping container was also located at Yacaaba Headland.
Mr Mitchell said there had been no reports of any further containers lost by the ship.
Ute-loads of rubbish collected
Hawks Nest resident Julie Sims said dozens of locals and holidaymakers have collected items including containers of emu oil, toilet-paper packaging, thousands of red foil lolly wrappers and clocks still in their packaging.
Debris was washing up from Fingal Bay to Jimmys Beach, as well as Nelson Bay inside Port Stephens.
“It’s everywhere. We only did a 200-metre stretch today before the tide came in, but as the tide was coming in more plastic was washing in with it,” she said, adding that several utes had been filled with debris.
“It’s the tip of the iceberg. This was literally the first wave of rubbish … it’s going to take weeks or months before this is finished.
“Standing on the beach it’s just horrendous. It’s heartbreaking to see in this pristine location.”
Ms Sims said much of the plastic was caught in the seaweed and needed to be pulled out by hand.
Mr Mitchell warned anyone looking to scavenge the debris that they had no right to do so.
“Members of the public are reminded items recovered from containers remain the property of the consignor and can’t be salvaged,” he said.
Boaters are being warned via marine radio to look out for the 12-metre containers.
Cargo ship waiting for berth
Port Botany remains closed due to rough seas.
Managing director of Yang Ming Marine Transport Corp, Steven Ka, said YM Efficiency was currently off Sydney, waiting for the port to reopen.
He said the company was doing everything it could to secure a berth as soon as possible.
Mr Ka said there had been no dangerous cargo or hazardous material within the containers.
Along with the 83 containers lost, 30 had collapsed and remained on deck, Mr Ka said.
He said the vessel had not been damaged, although deck fittings would need to be repaired.