MV Banks finally departs the Whitsundays at a cost of $365k
ON THURSDAY night a former Australian Navy vessel was finally refloated from her rocky resting place on Whitsunday Island where she became stuck in the immediate wake of Cyclone Debbie in March last year.
Sixteen months after the Category 4 storm tore through the Whitsundays, the 30 metre ship, MV Banks was towed off the rocks at Cid Harbour by local marine salvage operator Coral Coast Oceaneering.
Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said the combination of big winter tides and local expert knowledge allowed the $365,000 operation to go ahead.
"(The) Airlie Beach contractor connected a line to the ship on Thursday night's high tide to test its buoyancy in preparation for a tug to tow the wreck into deeper water,” Mr Bailey said.
"The MV Banks will remain anchored over the weekend while checks are made for any leaks or pollution hazards before it is towed to Townsville to be cut up."
Environment and Great Barrier Reef Minister Leeanne Enoch said the clean up operation was part of the Palaszczuk Government campaign to clean up wrecked and unseaworthy vessels.
However the cost of the salvage including the $60,000 already spent by Maritime Safety Queensland to remove pollutants from the ship will be picked up by the Queensland tax payer - the State Government is "considering” options in regard to recovering costs from the ship's owner.
Ms Enoch said derelict and abandoned vessels will be the target of a $20 million clean-up to protect the Queensland environment which was allocated in the 2018/19 State Budget.
"MSQ identifies and addresses neglected vessels and currently has a priority list of about 80 vessels of concern on its register,” she said.
"This funding will allow them to prioritise and remove wrecks that pose the most serious navigational and environmental hazards."
Mr Bailey said owners were responsible for the costs associated with the maintenance or removal of their vessels.
"Where owners fail to meet their responsibilities, the state has powers to appoint contractors to remove and dispose of unclaimed vessels," Mr Bailey said.
Though the state did allow the owner of the ill-fated Tateyama Maru - stuck fast on Gloucester Island in the wake of Cyclone Debbie - to abrogate responsibility and sign over the deed of the ship to the state before the ship was removed by Pacific Marine Group in November last year.
"Make no mistake, every effort will be made through the courts to recover disposal costs incurred by the state from reluctant owners,” the minister said.