The EPA Pollution Response Policy outlines the EPA’s role and responsibilities for managing responses to pollution events:
Please find below information about EPA incident response operations.
On 10 October 2022, the EPA responded to a report of an oil spill on the Tamar River from the hulks of the
Harry O'May and
EPA officers inspected the area and confirmed oil was present around the vessels in the Tamar River.
The EPA with assistance from TasPorts quickly put into place a boom to contain the spill and continued to monitor the situation while investigations to identify the cause commenced.
The EPA's responsibility in incidents such as this is dealing with the pollution response and proactively managing any environmental risk. Both vessels are abandoned wrecks. The ownership of the vessels is not the responsibility of the EPA.
There have been several reports of marine pollution events in the Tamar River in the last nine months. On this occasion the EPA ascertained that oil from the
Cape Bruny tugboat was the likely source of this pollution event.
Potential environmental impacts associated with pollution events such as oil spills include reduced water quality and oiled wildlife impacts. The deployment of an oil spill boom around the vessels to contain this oil spill prevented further discharge of oil into the receiving environment. The EPA notified the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania (NRE Tas) for any possible impacted wildlife in the area.
Between Thursday 13 October and Saturday 15 October 2022, exceptionally heavy rainfall impacted across North-West and Northern Tasmania. This extreme weather event resulted in major floods in catchments feeding into the Tamar Estuary.
While the boom was still secure and encircling both vessels, the strong waterflow conditions in the estuary reduced the effectiveness of the boom's ability to contain oil product.
EPA Officers continued to monitor the boom, however due to the severity of conditions and considering workplace health and safety risks, the response was put on hold until waterflow conditions subside to safe levels.
Investigations confirmed that the source of oil discharge was the derelict tug
Cape Bruny. As soon as weather conditions returned to a safe level, repositioning of the boom occurred.
To mitigate further environmental impacts, the EPA Director used powers under this legislation (refer to section 52) to action the removal of hydrocarbons from both vessels to prevent further oil or fuel leaks into the Tamar River. This power requires the Director to be satisfied that oil or fuel is being released or is likely to be released.
Kedge Marine Surveyors were engaged to remove oil and fuel from both vessels.
As of 17 November 2022, EPA Officers were satisfied the risk of further oil pollution into the river had been reduced with the removal of hydrocarbons from the vessels, and work at the site in terms of any immediate environmental impacts is now complete.
TasPorts notified the EPA on 28 January 2022 of a marine incident regarding a collision that occurred at the Port of Devonport involving TasPorts tugs Campbell Cove and York Cove with commercial vessel Goliath.
Updates and information about the response can be found below, with the most recent at the top.
Environmental Monitoring Report
Marine Solutions were engaged by the EPA under the direction of the State Marine Pollution Controller to design and implement an environmental monitoring program to assess the extent of environmental harm to the estuary and to track its recovery. This document reports the results of environmental monitoring in March and April 2022.
Report - Environmental Monitoring of the Mersey Estuary After Oil Spill - June 2022 (PDF 7Mb)
15 August 2022 - Final Update
Officers from the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) have been on site over the past week to support TasPorts in the salvaging of the tugboats, the
York Cove and Campbell Cove, from the Mersey River.
The EPA provided advice as required to proactively manage any environmental risk during the salvage operation.
The raising of the
York Cove occurred over last Sunday 7 August and Monday 8 August 2022, and the raising of the
Campbell Cove was completed on the evening of Friday 12 August 2022 when it was placed by cranes into the cradle on the
This has been a large and complex operation. During the raising, some diesel and light oil fractions did leave the containment area and move into the Mersey River.
EPA Officers undertook shoreline and water inspections, and Wildlife Officers from the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania (NRE Tas) have also been onsite to monitor wildlife in the area.
EPA and NRE Tas officers gradually stood down over the weekend. However, some continued a presence on the wharf to facilitate clean-up, along with the TasPorts' Incident Management Team.
On Monday 15 August 2022, surveillance of the river did not detect any significant remaining oil or evidence of ongoing impact to the environment as a result of the salvage operation, and therefore the EPA Incident Management Team stood down.
The tug 'Campell Cove' is lifted out of the water prior to loading onto the 'AAL Melbourne'.
3 March 2022 - Update
The EPA continues to liaise with TasPorts regarding salvage operations of the sunken tugs at the Port of Devonport.
While response measures have now wound down, monitoring of the site continues and skimming will be undertaken as and when required to proactively manage any environmental risk.
On 15 February, the Director of the EPA in his capacity as State Marine Pollution Controller formally handed the control of the collision site back to TasPorts.
The EPA remains available to support TasPorts and to provide advice as required.
8 February 2022 - Update
From today the EPA will be moving to a 'standby and monitoring' status at the Port of Devonport while the salvors recover fuel and oils from the sunken tugs. This includes the packing up of the EPA's Shore Base at the Horsehead Creek Boat Ramp.
Some EPA operational staff will remain on-site at the wharf to support TasPorts and the salvors through skimming operations, monitoring of operations and technical advice. The EPA remains on standby to respond should the situation change.
While the salvors are working on the salvage operation for the tugs, the containment area remains in place. Fish may still swim through oil in the containment area. Therefore, the EPA continues to recommend people not fish or eat fish caught from the river at this time.
The EPA is developing a longer-term monitoring program for the estuary to identify any further environmental impacts.
5 February 2022 - Update
The EPA is aware of a school of Kingfish currently running in the Mersey River today.
The EPA advises that some of the fish may have been inside the containment area of the recent marine oil spill incident.
There is still some diesel and oil in the water around this area.
The EPA recommends people not fish or eat fish caught from the river at this time.
2 February 2022
The EPA will remain on-site at the Port of Devonport for some time with the environmental risk not over yet.
The EPA will continue working into the weekend with on water and shore observations. An absorbent boom has been deployed as required to mop up oil pockets. Pleasingly, there has been no visible product observed on the western or eastern beaches beyond mouth of river.
However, while the vessels are still in the water there is a risk of oil and fuel discharge which must be managed.
Therefore, access for the community to some parts of the Mersey River will be limited into the weekend.
As TasPorts begins its salvage operation, the EPA will assist to monitor if any further pollutant leakage occurs during this process.
The vast majority of oil and fuel needs to be removed from the site before it is assessed how the vessels will be moved from underneath the river, which is likely to take some weeks.
The clean-up is also important for local wildlife that might be at risk from ingesting toxins which can be problematic. Any sightings of injured or oiled wildlife can be reported to the Marine Conservation Program (MCP) on 0427 942 537.
The EPA is looking into putting into place a longer-term monitoring program that will last the rest of the year.
Containment Area - Port of Devonport
31 January 2022 - Update
The EPA Incident Management Team continues to work with TasPorts, MAST and other government agencies on the Mersey River.
The overall operation will be a long and slow process, however work to safely contain and collect oil quickly is being achieved.
Three oil skimmers are now in operation.
Current objectives for the EPA include removal of contained fuel inside the boom where the tugs are located and establishing the extent of the spill.
Beyond the boom area the EPA is on the ground mapping where oil and diesel have spread.
Teams have also been deployed to survey the surrounding marine environment and shoreline for incidental clean up and scoping.
Diesel on mudflats and the shoreline is expected to evaporate over coming days. Mapping will help monitor longer-term environmental effects.
The Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania has deployed a specialist oiled wildlife response team, including a veterinarian, as part of the response to the incident in the Mersey River.
The team is monitoring shorelines up and down-stream from the incident site and is ready to respond to any impacted wildlife if observed or reported.
Penguin colonies to the west of the Mersey River mouth at Don Heads and Lillico have been assessed, with no evidence of oil material or impacted birds observed at those locations.
Any sightings of injured or oiled wildlife can be reported to the Marine Conservation Program (MCP) on 0427 942 537.
29 January 2022 - Media Release
The EPA has declared the collision of a commercial vessel and two TasPorts tugs at the Port of Devonport as a Level 2 marine pollution incident.
The EPA Incident Management Team, in collaboration with TasPorts, has successfully deployed oil spill recovery equipment within the area bounded by the oil spill boom deployed yesterday and is using these oil skimmers to remove fuel and oil.
An estimated 10,000 cubic litres of spillage have been removed from the Mersey River so far.
A larger 15-tonne oil skimmer has commenced operation and a second, larger 50-tonne oil skimmer will be mobilised in the next 24 hours.
The removal of diesel fuel and oil from the Mersey River and the removal of waste from the Port will continue to be an immediate priority for the Incident Management Team.
Staff from the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania supported by the EPA inspected both sides of the river today and found no sign of injured birdlife or animal casualties.
The community are asked to avoid water activities as the response team’s efforts continue.
28 January 2022 - Media Release
TasPorts notified the EPA of a marine incident today regarding a collision that occurred at the Port of Devonport involving TasPorts tugs Campbell Cove and York Cove with commercial vessel Goliath.
The EPA is standing up an Incident Response Team and will take the lead on the environmental management responsibilities of the incident. Oil spill response equipment has been deployed around both tugs.
TasPorts’ focus will be on salvage and preventing further spillage from the vessels. The EPA is preparing for further environmental impacts. AMSA is aware of the incident.
The State Marine Pollution Committee has convened and met today at 4.00 pm to discuss response, roles and responsibilities moving forward.
The EPA is working with TasPorts and the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania to identify impacted industries and wildlife, and protect and minimise damage.
We thank the community for their support; however, we will not be requesting on-ground volunteer support from the general public at this time due to safety requirements around this response.