Oil Spill Off Great Barrier Reef Confirmed
Queensland authorities have confirmed that oil has been found in waters off Cape Upstart, near the Great Barrier Reef
Earlier reports of a one-kilometre-long oil streak prompted a search by the water police and a helicopter crew who confirmed that oily patches of about one metre in diameter had been sighted.
An Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) specialised aircraft left Cairns airport on Saturday morning to inspect the waters south of Townsville as well as the surrounding areas and confirmed the oil slick.
'Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) has oil pollution resources and staff on standby if required in Townsville and other ports. Other agencies are also prepared to activate resources,' a MSQ spokeswoman said.
Fourteen ships have been identified as the potential source for the oil slick, Patrick Quirk, general manager of Maritime Services Queensland said on Saturday.
'We know the ships that went past the area,' Mr Quirk said, 'There are 14 ships that we consider are possible sources of oil and we plan to take oil samples from all of those ships.'
'In an area about 30 kilometres wide and around five kilometres wide, within that rectangle there are areas of sheen and small patties of oil,' Mr Quirk added.
'The whole area is not covered by oil or sheen. It is very patchy.'
Speaking to the Brisbane Times on Friday, Ted Winterbottom from Townsville’s Coast Guard explained that any oil would drift away from the coast on Saturday before the winds turned in the afternoon.
A water inspection with ultra violet sensors, which are designed detect water temperature variations caused by oil, came back negative because the oil residue was below the equipment measurement treshold, Mr Quirk explained, announcing that the team would conduct another visual inspection 'to make sure that we are managing the situation correctly'.
He said the oil spill was 'not a huge slick of oil from a massive spill from a tanker. We are talking about areas of sheen – and within that - there are thicker patties of oil.'