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Legalities of oil spill in spotlight

Legalities of oil spill in spotlight

Greens Senator Bob Brown will initiate an urgent motion to amend federal laws to give authorities the power to prevent chemical-laden foreign ships leaving Australian ports during rough weather,…

Greens Senator Bob Brown will initiate an urgent motion to amend federal laws to give authorities the power to prevent chemical-laden foreign ships leaving Australian ports during rough weather, he said on Monday.

The motion is in response to the oil spill that has covered 60 kilometres of the Queensland coast, after a cargo ship accidently dumped hundreds of thousands of litres of oil into the water off Moreton Bay near Brisbane last week

The ship, Pacific Adventurer, was travelling during rough seas associated with tropical cyclone Hamish.

The Government has claimed that international rules prevent legislation to stop hazardous navigation causing oil or chemical spills, a claim refuted by Senator Brown.

Meanwhile, Maritime Safety Queensland and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority have launched legal action against the captain of the ship, who has had to surrender his passport to Commonwealth authorities.

Queensland's Deputy Premier, Paul Lucas, told ABC's the world today program that the captain has to clarify why 31 containers of ammonium nitrate fertiliser fell overboard - one of which punctured the oil-filled hull - and why the extent of the contamination was seriously underestimated.

Lucas said thirty tonnes of oil was first reported as spilled, but the real figure is now believed to be around 230 to 250 tonnes.

The Swire Shipping Group, which owns and operates the cargo ships, has denied suggestions they knowingly lied about the amount of oil leaked.

- Sarah Sharples

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