IN SHADES of film director James Cameron’s famous exploration of the Titanic, a remotely operated underwater vehicle will be used to inspect sunken shipping containers off the Newcastle coast in coming weeks.
Yang Ming, the owner of YM Efficiency, which lost 81 containers in heavy swell south-east of Newcastle in June, has confirmed through representatives it will commence a search of the sea floor to inspect about 40 sonar “targets” identified in previous surveys.
The announcement comes after the Professional Fishermen's Association called for action to remove the containers from the ocean earlier this week.
The PFA said the failure to complete surveys and remove containers was putting fishermen’s “lives at risk”.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority told the Herald on Wednesday a second survey by contractors of Yang Ming’s insurance company to pinpoint the location of containers began on October 19.
“AMSA is monitoring the progress of the search which has so far located about 37 containers on the sea floor,” an AMSA spokesperson said.
However inquires to Aus Ship, the Australian representatives for the insurance company of Yang Ming, have revealled a fresh operation is set to begin to dive to the sea floor and asses the containers with surveys now completed.
“The shipping company, in association with the government, organised sonar scanning of the sea floor shortly after the incident,” Aus Ship said in a statement.
“This has continued subject to weather and safety considerations but in the last two months of scanning no further ‘targets’ thought to be containers have been found.
“So far, approximately 40 sonar ‘targets’ have been identified on the sea floor.”
The new operation will include the use of a remotely operated vehicle to assess the “targets” thought to be the containers.
The company has also moved to clarify the number of missing containers, saying the 40 targets identified were likely the location of all the containers – except for two which washed ashore after the accident.
Such a scenario could mean the 42 containers previously considered “missing”, have actually been located.
“Because of the way the containers were attached together on the ship, it is likely that each target has multiple containers,” Aus Ship said.
“A remotely operated underwater vehicle will be deployed in the next two weeks to confirm this.”
Aus Ship said Yang Ming planned to meet the PFA this week about the search and “to ensure no fisherman is disadvantaged as a result of the containers”.
It said only one net fouling incident had occurred due to the containers, but a Notice to Mariners issued by AMSA should be adhered too and the small section of seafloor avoided.