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Controversial vessel transports explosive cargo off Australian coast

09 May 2012

A cargo ship carrying 3,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, a chemical used in mine blasting, was at anchor off the coast of New South Wales from April 22 to 29. Chemical manufacturer Orica made the decision to store the nitrate offshore as it had no place to keep the chemical on land while it carried out maintenance at its Kooragang Island plant.

The MCP Kopenhagen kept the ammonium nitrate offshore while the owner carried out maintenance at its plant
The MCP Kopenhagen kept the ammonium nitrate offshore while the owner carried out maintenance at its plant

The explosive compound was loaded onto the MCP Kopenhagen on 22 April and was shipped out to sea off Newcastle.

Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) officials have described the conditions on the MCP Kopenhagen as the worst they had seen in years, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald. The MUA criticised a decision by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) to grant the ship permission to take on such a potentially destructive cargo.

MUA Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith said it was unacceptable for Orica to load a volatile and highly dangerous substance like ammonium nitrate onto the NCP Kopenhagen in Australian waters, with clear danger to the city of Newcastle.

"The MCP Kopenhagen is one of the worst vessels the MUA has ever seen. Recent inspections found eight serious safety defects including faulty sewage, faulty radio, faulty electrics and a faulty navigation system," Mr Smith said.

In late April, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority inspected the MCP Kopenhagen and found several deficiencies, but a spokesman said none were serious enough to warrant the ship being detained, the SMH reported.  

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