PUSH TO RE­MOVE WRECKS

INLET DE­BRIS UN­DER SCRU­TINY:

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - Shane Ni­chols shane.ni­chols@news.com.au

POOR old Mag­gie Mae sleeps in the mud and what will be­come of her now?

The ferro-con­crete yacht, moored on Dick­son Inlet for just about as long as any­one can re­mem­ber, slipped be­neath the sur­face last week. It fol­lowed that lengthy wet spell that we had, and it’s pos­si­ble she drank her fill, and then more, and grav­ity won out over buoy­ancy.

There’s no short­age of wrecks in the inlet, of course.

Old salt Billy ‘‘Boomer’’ McNeil says there may be around 10 sunken wrecks, but who re­ally knows. An­other old yachtie at the Yacht Club last week swore he knows of about 20.

As it hap­pens, it was just a cou­ple of days af­ter Mag­gie Mae foundered that the lo­cal com­mit­tee (Dou­glas LMAC) ap­pointed by the Great Bar­rier Reef Ma­rine Park Author­ity to help guard the health of the reef and wa­ter­ways took a sur­vey visit up Dick­son Inlet.

One of its aims was to as­sess the wrecks prob­lem in the Inlet.

Dou­glas LMAC chair Robert Hanan, of Whyan­beel, was part of the group on the sur­vey trip, along with Adam Smith, the re­gional man­ager/di­rec­tor of GBRMPA.

The sink­ing of the Mag­gie Mae merely added to the prob­lem of sunken, or aban­doned ves­sels, in the wa­ter­ways, which have be­come a po­ten­tial nav­i­ga­tion and pol­lu­tion haz­ard. Mr Hanan said it was quite a prob­lem. Dou­glas LMAC had been in dis­cus­sions with Mar­itime Safety Qld over the prob­lem. Off its own bat, Dou­glas LMAC had com­piled a re­port for MSQ.

The LMAC re­ported there were 10 wrecks or other ves­sels that needed at­ten­tion, in­clud­ing the Mag­gie Mae.

Mr Hanan said the re­port was de­liv­ered to MSQ, which sub­se­quently put a re­quest to govern­ment for money for a clean up, which was de­nied. Which brings us to the present. ‘‘They [MSQ] have done noth­ing with our re­port,’’ Mr Hanan said. ‘‘We did not re­quest fund­ing – we ini­tially just wanted MSQ to es­tab­lish of­fi­cially that the ves­sels were aban­doned. We were con­cen­trat­ing on derelict boats that were still afloat as the re­moval of these is much cheaper than those al­ready on the bot­tom.’’

Where boats are aban­doned, there are pro­cesses by which the au­thor­i­ties can claim them and then plan their re­moval.

‘‘The trou­ble is, some­times Port Dou­glas is the last stop for ves­sels on their last legs,’’ Mr Hanan said.

Where an owner can be iden­ti­fied it is nor­mally up to them to re­move the prob­lem.

The boat­ing world, alas, is not so sim­ple – prob­lem boats are of­ten ac­com­pa­nied by own­ers who no longer want to be own­ers, and whose who fi­nances are on the rocks. There’s no more money for the boat. Or when it sinks, to­wards the sal­vage oper­a­tion.

‘‘Sal­vage of boats can be very ex­pen­sive,’’ Mr Hanan said. ‘‘Hawaii has a good sys­tem. Over there, a boat owner has to demon­strate once a year that the ves­sel is ca­pa­ble of putting out to sea.’’

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