❝Registered own­ers of ves­sels can't just walk away from their ves­sels, es­pe­cially if they are on pub­lic land.

Whitsunday Times - - NEWS -

— Trans­port and Main Roads

A TO­TAL of 82 boats are cur­rently es­ti­mated by Marine Safety Queens­land to have ei­ther sunk, grounded or be­come lost in the af­ter­math of Cy­clone Deb­bie.

Now as the Whit­sun­day clean-up be­ings to ramp up, boat own­ers are fran­ti­cally wor­ry­ing about what’s go­ing to hap­pen to them.

A Trans­port and Main Roads spokesper­son said while they would of­fer as­sis­tance to boat own­ers in trou­ble, any stranded or wrecked boats would be own­ers’ re­spon­si­bil­ity.

“Registered own­ers of ves­sels can't just walk away from their ves­sels, es­pe­cially if they are on pub­lic land or if they pose a pol­lu­tion or nav­i­ga­tion haz­ard,” a spokesper­son said.

“We will work with them to re­move ves­sels and look at op­tions.

“We ap­pre­ci­ate this could take some time but this does not ex­cuse own­ers from their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.”

Mar­itime Safety Queens­land is also call­ing for cau­tion dur­ing the clean-up.

“While much de­bris has been washed out, there re­mains the need for cau­tion on water­ways, par­tic­u­larly with re­gard to keep­ing a low speed,” a spokesper­son said.

”Many of our nav­i­ga­tion aids have been de­stroyed.

“They can be fairly eas­ily re­placed but first we have to sur­vey for un­der­wa­ter haz­ards and shift­ing chan­nels.” PA­TRICK von Stieglitz just wants to go home but he can’t as his boat, the Tateyama Maru, is firmly aground at Gloucester Is­land in the Whit­sun­days.

A to­tal of 15 court cases in five years has left Mr von Stieglitz and his wife strug­gling for money and with­out a means to prop­erly sal­vage their 35.5m steel ship.

The prob­lem cen­tres around in­sur­ance, some­thing Mr von Stieglitz has been heav­ily fined for on a num­ber of oc­ca­sions.

But he says it’s the leg­is­la­tion and in­sur­ance com­pa­nies that are to blame.

Mr von Stieglitz bought the Tateyama Maru in 2004 for $100,000.

Af­ter hav­ing spent more than $600,000 on a re­fit, he was orig­i­nally fined in 2012 for fail­ing to have the cor­rect marine pol­lu­tion in­sur­ance – re­quired for all ves­sels above 15m in Queens­land ac­cord­ing to the Marine Pol­lu­tion Act.

“I spent six months try­ing to buy it in 2011/2012 (and I thought), ‘why can’t I buy this in­sur­ance pol­icy?’,” Mr von Stieglitz said.

Mr von Stieglitz even­tu­ally found in­sur­ance with a com­pany in Spain but af­ter the ves­sel sus­tained dam­age on char­ter and with­out a sur­vey he then couldn’t af­ford, the pol­icy couldn’t be re­newed.

Fast for­ward to 2017 and Mr von Stieglitz and his wife found them­selves in a sit­u­a­tion with a boat they couldn’t sell, in­sure or af­ford to keep.

Mr von Stieglitz sub­se­quently ap­pealed to Mar­itime Safety Queens­land for help – fear­ing that if a cy­clone hit the re­gion his ship could be­come a dan­ger to the pub­lic as well as a bur­den on him­self.

He even tried to warn the au­thor­i­ties prior to Cy­clone Deb­bie, send­ing a let­ter to the district court judge as­signed to his case.

“I wrote and asked for help. I ba­si­cally told him ‘I can’t han­dle this ship any more’,” he said.

And when Cy­clone Deb­bie did hit the coast, Mr von Stieglitz’s worst fears were re­alised. The Tateyama Maru ran aground in Bona Bay and for a num­ber of days he and his wife were left with noth­ing but the clothes they stood up in.

As Deb­bie’s dam­age be­gan to be re­vealed, the ship came to the at­ten­tion of Mem­ber for Whit­sun­day Ja­son Costi­gan, who posted pictures show­ing oil ap­par­ently leak­ing from the ves­sel on his Face­book page, cit­ing an en­vi­ron­men­tal disas­ter in the mak­ing.

“We just need to have the prob­lem fixed. It's a rust bucket and it's go­ing to be a sig­nif­i­cant en­vi­ron­men­tal risk,” he said.

Mr Costi­gan and Mr von Stieglitz met last Thurs­day and “in the scheme of things we both have the same in­ter­ests”, Mr von Stieglitz said.

“It has to be taken off the beach. It’s a f ****** disas­ter for ev­ery­one.”

There may how­ever, be some light at the end of the tun­nel with Mar­itime Safety Queens­land in­spect­ing the wreck. A Trans­port and Main Roads spokesper­son said “no pol­lu­tants were es­cap­ing” and it was in a “sta­ble con­di­tion”.

“Our marine of­fi­cers had al­ready re­moved the ma­jor­ity of pol­lu­tion haz­ards in­clud­ing diesel fuel and oil from the ves­sel prior to its ground­ing,” the spokesper­son said.

“We are work­ing with other agen­cies in­clud­ing Parks and Wildlife and Queens­land Po­lice to en­sure pub­lic safety.

“The owner is al­ways re­spon­si­ble for ves­sel sal­vage and we are dis­cussing op­tions with him.”

None­the­less Mr von Stieglitz said the govern­ment had to step up and stop let­ting in­sur­ance com­pa­nies dic­tate how leg­is­la­tion worked.

“How can mar­itime safety say mar­itime safety is not their prob­lem? The irony is if they’re not re­spon­si­ble who is?” he said.

“The in­sur­ance com­pa­nies call the shots.”

PHOTO: JA­SON COSTI­GAN

BIG PROB­LEM: The ground­ing of a 100ft boat at Gloucester Is­land could be an en­vi­ron­men­tal disas­ter, MP Ja­son Costi­gan has said.

PHOTO: SHARON SMALL­WOOD

SHIP­WRECKS: Sunrise over the mar­itime car­nage af­ter Cy­clone Deb­bie had left the re­gion.

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