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Worst oil spill in 30 years hits harbour

An oil-skimming boat cleans up the spill near the entrance to Auckland Creek, which was blocked by an inflatable boom.
An oil-skimming boat cleans up the spill near the entrance to Auckland Creek, which was blocked by an inflatable boom.

By ZOE SINCLAIRzoe@gladstoneobserver.dyndns.org

A TUGBOAT collided with a coal carrier on Tuesday night in what was believed to be the state's worst oil spill in 30 years.

The tugboat Tom Tough was assisting the arriving Korean coal carrier Global Peace berth at the RG Tanna Coal Terminal when it was believed one of the engine's lost power.

The tug ruptured a fuel tank spilling at least 25 tonnes into the harbour just before midnight on Tuesday night.

Maritime Safety Queensland's (MSQ) Captain John Watkinson, managing the clean-up opera- tion, said the incoming tide spread the fuel upstream into mangroves, river estuaries and the port.

The fuel was spread further into other port areas after the tide turned.

'There has been minimal im- pact on mangrove areas,' Capt Watkinson said.

'There has been some impact around Auckland Point ? it's mainly still around the channel.'

Capt Watkinson said the oil had spread about 20km along the coast and about 4km wide yester- day morning.

He said neither MSQ nor the Environmental Protection Agen- cy (EPA) believed any wildlife had been affected by the oil yes- terday.

Capt Watkinson said about two tonnes of oil had been re- moved from the harbour with the clean-up to continue today.

MSQ yesterday battled winds and poor weather conditions while trying to contain and re- move the oil.

'It makes the picking-up less effective,' Capt Watkinson said.

'Hopefully the weather will be kinder tomorrow.

'In any event we'll be out there.'

He said MSQ hoped to contin- ue to contain the oil with four skimmers today and focus on the priority areas, such as the man- groves.

'We'll be concentrating on the heaviest patches,' Capt Watkinson said.

Auckland Point would also be an area targeted in an effort to have Auckland Creek opened for boaties.

Shipping lanes were to be open today.



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