O'Farrell permits decrepit ship to dock 3000 tonnes of explosives at Government-owned Newcastle port

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The O'Farrell Government has secretly permitted the trouble-plagued manufacturer Orica to dock 3000 tonnes of explosive ammonium nitrate on a decrepit ship at the State-owned Port of Newcastle – putting the safety of local residents at risk.

The under-regulated flag of convenience vessel MCP Kopenhagen is currently sitting off the Newcastle coast for seven days before returning to Port. It is unclear how long the explosive cargo will be docked before it can be transferred to a storage and distribution facility on land.

"Premier Barry O'Farrell and Environment Minister Robyn Parker need to explain why the people of Newcastle are only just finding out about this," Shadow Environment Minister Luke Foley said today.

"3000 tonnes of highly explosive material is being stored on a German-owned, Greek-managed, Marshall Islands-operated, Maltese-flagged, Filipino-crewed vessel – the MCP Kopenhagen – and the O'Farrell Government has done nothing to ensure the safety of the material on board.

"Why would the O'Farrell Government permit Orica, of all people, to store explosive cargo on a third-world flag of convenience vessel?

"How long will the vessel be docked at the Port of Newcastle? According to its website, there are 34 days of scheduled maintenance at Orica's Kooragang Island plant scheduled from May 4.

"Does this mean that 3000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate will be docked at the Government-owned Port of Newcastle for over a month?

"Why have the residents of Newcastle learned about this from the media – rather than being notified by the company or the O'Farrell Government? These are very serious questions that Barry O'Farrell and Robyn Parker must answer today.

"In 2007, a ship carrying ammonium nitrate from Newcastle caught fire.

"The MCP Kopenhagen is documented to possess faulty fire safety systems, broken navigational systems and broken sewerage. The crew on this ship is being rationed to just three hundred millilitres of water per day.

"The O'Farrell Government cannot deny knowledge of this because the State Government owns and operates the Port of Newcastle.

"The public would have a lot more confidence if an Australian-owned and crewed vessel was deployed.

"Mr O'Farrell promised to heavily regulate Orica to ensure no repeat of last year’s debacle where the Government failed to tell the people of Stockton for 70 hours about a major leak of toxic hexavalent chromium – in which the health and safety of the local community was compromised.

"Orica should be under constant surveillance by the O'Farrell Government and the Environmental Protection Agency following repeated chemical leaks from its Kooragang Island plant over the past year.

"By allowing 3000 tonnes of explosives to dock on a decrepit foreign ship, the O'Farrell Government is again treating Newcastle residents with contempt and exposing them to unnecessary risk."