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Diesel spill in Hobart wharf downgraded

24 March 2015

A diesel spill incident on Monday 23 March in the water at Hobart wharf was handled effectively by Tas Ports in accordance with the EPA's incident response plan, and the emergency response was subsequently downgraded.

The EPA’s Acting Director, John Mollison explained that Tas Ports had received a call of a possible oil spill in the vicinity of Macquarie 2 berth at 9 am on Monday morning and immediately began to implement an emergency response.

“The EPA was notified of the emergency and officers called to attend the incident and assess the environmental risk,” Mr Mollison said.

“Within the hour, Tas Ports had deployed absorbent booms as a safety precaution and contained the spill in the waters surrounding the American research vessel, Nathaniel B Palmer which was moored at Macquarie Wharf No 2.

“EPA emergency response officers met with Tas Ports operational staff and the Captain of the vessel to further assess the situation and search for the source of the diesel leak,” he said.

The diesel spill was thought to have occurred during an automated wastewater release from the vessel, indicating that the ship’s treated wastewater had become contaminated with fuel. The initial report was of a possible spill of 19,000 L by the Captain, based on a worst case scenario of an uncontained fuel leak from the vessel’s fuel tanks into its wastewater tanks.

“The subsequent assessment by the EPA’s Incident Response Officer found that the spill was much smaller than originally anticipated,” said Mr Mollison.

“It was reclassified by the EPA as a minor incident and the diesel was quickly fully contained and cleaned up by Tas Ports and the vessel responsible,” he said.

The source of the leak was found to be high up in the fuel tank and it had occurred as a result of the vessel being refuelled on the previous day. A series of remedial actions to fix the leak and dispose of the contaminated wastewater, were agreed to by the Captain of the vessel. The EPA and Tas Ports will close off on the incident once these actions have been completed.

Absorbent boom deployed by Tas Ports to contain diesel spill