Court orders removal for rotting ship in Fig Tree Ck

A ROTTING, rusting, derelict vessel in Fig Tree Creek purchased for $1 could cost the owner $20,000 to have it removed from Queensland waters.

Maritime Safety Queensland took the owner, Kristoffer Raymond Mitchell, to court last week in an effort to get the unseaworthy vessel, which could spill toxic substances into the creek, removed in a safe manner.

A report before the Rockhampton District Court stated the vessel was unseaworthy as the decking on the aft section of the ship had rotted and was soft when weight applied, there were visible cracks on the floor, several timber planks on the gunwale were rotten and the bollards securing the ship were badly rusted.

There were also signs of water inundation in the engine room with the auxiliary engines inoperable, the bilge pump system not working and the ship's drive system was inoperable.

The batteries in the engine room showed signs of having been inundated with water at some point and were ­inoperable.

The court heard the original owner sold it to another man who then sold it to Mr Mitchell for $1.

MSQ officers tracked down Mr Mitchell and asked him in June to provide a written salvage plan and to not remove the vessel prior to approval from the Harbour Master.

Mr Mitchell replied the next day with an update saying the hull was sound but untidy and he had obtained a sustainable stern drive unit which he hoped to install soon.

He also said he would likely tow the vessel but would remove pollutants that were on-board prior to towing.

A fortnight later, MSQ spoke with Mr Mitchell again who stated he'd had a sudden death in the family.

The court heard subsequent attempts to contact Mr Mitchell over six weeks were unsuccessful.

On October 8, MSQ officers inspected the vessel again and concluded the ship was in a worse state - still unseaworthy and now at risk of sinking and causing a hazard plus pollutants leaked into the waterway.

MSQ again tried to contact Mr Mitchell after the inspection.

As of March 11, prior to the application filed in court, the ship was still located in the same state in the same mooring in Fig Tree Creek and there had been no further communication from Mr Mitchell.

MSQ determined it would cost $25,000 to remove the vessel safely from waters.

Judge Michael Burnett ordered Mr Mitchell to write and submit a salvage and slip plan to be approved by the Gladstone Harbour Master before removal with a further mention date on July 14 where an order could be made for Mr Mitchell to pay MSQ $25,000 to remove the boat.